Do snow leopards eat humans?

Whereas there are well-known man-eating leopards, lions and tigers, you never hear about man-eating snow leopards. It just isn’t reported and it is difficult to imagine the rather mild-mannered, retiring snow leopard indulging themselves in man-eating habits. It doesn’t happen, so the answer to the question the title is a categoric, No. Snow leopards do not attack humans let alone eat them. This attitude to disregard humans as prey animals probably originates in the inherently mild-mannered snow leopard in comparison to the big cats I’ve mentioned. They are one of the least aggressive of the large cats.

Snow leopard
Captive snow leopard. Photo: by jssvobodajs on 500px.
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By all accounts the personality of captive snow leopards indicates a gentle animal. They become very tame in captivity and often form close bonds with their caretakers. The Snow Leopard Trust, which is the premier and well-known snow leopard conservation organisation referred to an anonymous writer who said, “In captivity, it is far the tamest and gentlest of the large carnivora, not excepting the puma. Unlike the latter it is a sleepy, quiet animal, like a domestic cat”.

So the captive snow leopard behaves like a domestic cat in many ways. And it comes from first-hand experience. There’s a big difference between captive and wild-living animals but the overriding evidence is that snow leopards have a character unsuited to hunting humans. It is said that, “They rarely defend themselves, and there are many records of snow leopards being beaten or stoned to death by otherwise unarmed villagers. The fact is they don’t see humans as hostile nor as a prey animal and they release domestic livestock quite readily when approached by farmers. This is perhaps because of the vast places where they live allowing them to keep distance from human contact. Although there is some human-cat conflict concerning livestock.

There’s a story from the then Soviet Union reporting how a snow leopard entered a sheep pen in a high mountain pasture. There was commotion in the pen and the shepherdess rushed in and caught the snow leopard by its tail and began to drag the cat away from a wounded sheep. Shepherds joined and killed the snow leopard who did not try protect itself. It is believed that this behaviour originates in the fact that snow leopards have had little contact with humans which precluded the opportunity to understand how dangerous humans are.

Notwithstanding those stories I think you can get the message that the snow leopard is highly unlikely to be the type of aggressive, rampaging and destructive cat such as the tiger and lion and to a lesser extent the leopard. There are no reports of them attacking and eating humans. However, if their prey animals such as blue sheep were decimated and they were struggling to survive and perhaps if one was injured it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that it would attack a human given the opportunity.

P.S. I have to mention the fourth big cat: the jaguar. There are far fewer stories of man-eating jaguars. They are hardly mentioned.

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