The snow leopard is found in the mountain ranges of Central Asia stretching from northwestern China to Tibet and the Himalayas. Adults can grow up to four feet in length and can weigh from 60 to 120 lbs. The fur of the snow leopard is spotted and varies in color from white or cream to pale yellow or gray. Its tail is thickly furred and can grow as long as the leopards body. Snow leopards are muscular and agile enabling them to leap up to 50 feet horizontally and 20 feet vertically.
The snow leopard prefers mountain steppes and coniferous forest scrub as its habitat at altitudes from 2000 to 6000 meters. In the summer, snow leopards travel to alpine meadows and rocky areas, and in the winter they travel to lower forest area to find prey. Diet consists of boars, arkhar, markhor, bharal, ibex, marmots, and other small rodents. Snow leopards appear to be solitary creatures, except during the breeding season. Mating occurs in late winter and early spring. The female gives birth to two or three cubs after a gestation period of 100 days.
Snow leopards were once heavily hunted for their pelts which sold for a very high price in the fur market. Also, their bones and other body parts are valued in traditional Asian medicine. Loss of habitat, persecution, and competition with humans for prey also threaten the species. Snow leopards do well in captivity, and conservation efforts have helped some, bringing the current population to 6000 (up from 1000 in the 1960s).
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