Snow leopard walked non-stop for 10 kilometers through 20-inch-deep snow
This is a little story I’ve picked up in my travels which highlights the incredible stamina and persistence of the magnificent snow leopard. As you no doubt know they live at high elevations where there is often a lot of snow, sometimes deep.
But deep snow does not seem to prevent them from travelling. When no trail such as made by goats or horses is available, they break new snow. I think I’ll quote Fiona Sunquist verbatim in Wild Cats of the World. ‘Tien Shan’ means Mountains of Heaven or the Heavenly Mountain, and is a large system of mountain ranges in Central Asia.
“In the Tien Shan scientists followed the tracks of one snow leopard that had walked through snow for 10 kilometers without stopping to rest. The snow was so deep that in places the animal’s paws had penetrated to a depth of 43 centimeters and its belly had created a furrow in the snow”.
I decided that the snow was up to around 20 inches in depth. It is amazing. Think of humans walking through snow of this depth and it must have been in very difficult overall conditions.
Nearly all humans except mountaineers, would take one look at the snow and decide to not attempt it. But to march 10 kilometers non-stop in it is staggering. Snow leopards can have home ranges of 1000 square kilometers. The vastness is mind-boggling. A lonely existence in an icy world.
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They say that fresh snow helps the snow leopard to travel silently “and so might make it easier to stalk prey on steep, rocky slopes.”
Some experts believe that snow leopards are more effective hunters in snow and/or rain. For instance, E.P. Koshkarev believed that “a deterioration of visibility in foul weather allows the predator to approach prey more closely.” Snow leopards have a habit of choosing to hunt after a heavy snowfall.