Snow Leopards 101 | Nat Geo Wild

snow leopards are one of the world's

most elusive cats nicknamed ghosts of

the mountains they live in the world's

highest ranges and are one of the least

understood felines snow leopards inhabit

the highest altitude documented of any

cat their habitat includes the highest

mountain ranges across Central Asia with

altitudes up to 20,000 feet snow

leopards have adapted to thrive in these

extremely high elevations where the air

has low levels of oxygen they've

developed wide nasal passages enlarged

chest cavities that increase the volume

of air breathed in and they have smaller

and more numerous red blood cells than

typical cats maximizing the amount of

oxygen absorbed by the body snow

leopards can endure temperatures as low

as negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit to

keep warm in this inhospitable climate

snow leopards have the densest fur of

all cats with nearly 26,000 hairs per

square inch a human only has about 1,300

per square inch snow leopards also have

giant paws that act as snowshoes

distributing their weight so they can

walk on top of snow instead of sinking

in to stay warm while they rest snow

leopards wrap their furry tails around

their bodies like a blanket Snow Leopard

tails are balancing tools the snow

leopard tail is one of the thickest and

longest tails of all big cats it can

grow up to 90% as long as their bodies

the long tail acts as a counterweight

similar to a tightrope walkers balancing


this helps snow leopards to hunt agile

wild sheep and goats and steep rugged

environments it helps them balance and

quickly pivot as they chase nimble prey

snow leopards can leap farther than any

other animal snow leopards can grow to 7

feet long including their tail thanks to

strong legs you can leap distances up to

50 feet that's 7 times their own length

snow leopards front legs are shorter

than their hind legs helpful for quick

starts and rapid speeds their broad

muscular chests are like shock absorbers

dampening the impact of nearly vertical

hunts snow leopards are vulnerable to

extinction by some estimates there could

be fewer than 8,000 wild snow leopards

climate change might impact their

habitat reducing the big cats range and

food sources increased ranching and

herding has caused the decline in wild

prey and conflict between snow leopards

and humans has developed when wild prey

is scarce snow leopards prey on domestic


this causes herders to lose income and

some then kill the cats in retaliation

community-based conservation efforts

have focused on reducing this conflict

creating greater understanding and

protection of these mountain ghosts is

needed to prevent them from disappearing