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Admissions Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (8:30 a.m. for Members)
Grounds close at 6 p.m.
Ages 12-64: $15
Ages 65+: $12
Ages 3-11: $10
2 and Under: Free
2014 Free Days: 11/3, 11/14, 11/20
Snow leopards are found in many areas in central Asia including eastern Russia, Mongolia, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic and in the Himalayas in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and India. The actual areas are small and greatly fragmented from each other.
Snow leopards live in rocky mountainous areas with shrubs, grasslands, steppe or coniferous forests abovethe tree line. They can live at elevations up to 16,000 feet.
What Does It Eat?
In the wild: Sheep, ibex, musk deer as well as marmots, hares, birds, rodents and sometimes domestic livestock.
At the zoo: Special feline diet and meat with bones to help keep their teeth clean.
What Eats It?
Snow leopards are one of the top predators in Central Asia. Few, if any, natural predators exist, except for the young or infirm.
Snow leopards are solitary except during mating and females with cubs. Snow leopard territories overlap without conflict.
Snow leopards reach sexual maturity at two to three years. Breeding season is from January to April. The female gives birth to a litter of one to four cubs after a gestation of 97-103 days. The cubs are born blind, about a foot long weighing a little more than a pound (450 g). They have darker fur than adults. At five to six weeks they come out of the den but stay with their mother until they are 18-22 months old. Snow leopards live 15-18 years in the wild and up to 21 years in captivity.
Snow leopards have a bushy tail up to three feet long that can be wrapped around their body and head to protect them from the cold. They have long thick hair that covers a dense woolly under fur. Belly fur can be three to five inches long. Like snowshoes, their large paws are fully furred to provide warmth and good traction on snow.
The snow leopard is uniquely adapted to survive the harsh conditions at high altitudes in the remote mountains of central Asia. They have well-developed chest muscles and powerful, short limbs that help them climb and leap in the rocky terrain, while their long tails help them balance on small mountain ridges. The snow leopards’ gray fur provides camouflage that enables them to blend into their rocky, snowy habitat. They are more terrestrial than other cats and migrate with the seasons, changing elevations with the climate and availability of food.
The tapetum lucidum, a mirror-like layer in the back of the eye, reflects light back through the eye to help produce a brighter image in low light. This is an adaptation for their nocturnal lifestyle enabling them to see six times better than humans in low light. Cats have the most highly developed binocular vision of all carnivores resulting in extremely accurate 3-D vision which helps them gauge the distance to prey animals.
IUCN Status: Endangered.
Snow leopards are endangered and their numbers are decreasing at a fast pace. They are poached for their pelts which are the most highly valued of the wild cats because of their rarity. Snow leopards are also valued for their bones and other body parts. Loss of habitat and decreasing availability of prey animals also affect their survival. There may only be 2000 to 7000 snow leopards remaining.