|| Snow Leopard
Among the least known and elusive cats in the world, the snow leopard lives above the tree
line, where it hunts. Solitary and nocturnal, the leopard's thick fur adapts it to the
cold climate. That turns out to be incredibly beneficial. The snow leopard spends its time
between 4,000 and 15,000 feet from winter to spring, respectively.
The elusive snow
leopard can melt away unseen and invariably spots the human intruder first. Its pelt is
smoky gray with a tinge of yellow, its spots forming open rosettes. Best identified by its
3 foot long tail and its size -- about that of a large dog -- snow leopards rarely descend
into the coniferous forest belt and are most frequently spotted north of the main Himalaya
along the Tibetan border. Ibex and bharal are primary food items in large parts of their
range, but with the depletion of native ungulates, snow leopards have turned to livestock
for sustenance. Strong and solitary, they nevertheless communicate to each other through
signs such as scrapes -- shallow depressions scuffed in the ground (atop rocky promontories, along river bluffs near stream
confluences and along the edge of sharp ridge lines), usually with a pile of dirt at one
end. Snow leopards rarely number more than half a dozen in a particular valley.
Only 2,000 of these animals survive.