Snow Leopard’s Flehmen Response on Camera Trap Video

Snow leopard Flehmen response

Snow leopard Flehmen response. The cat has his/her mouth open. Photo is a still from the video below.

This video shows the beautiful snow leopard beautifully, in the wild, on top of a high ridge in the Upper Spiti landscape in Himashal Pradesh, India. The wonderfully fit looking and athletic snow leopards that you see in the video are a mother and her two cubs who are grown up.

You can see them sniffing the ground for a scent that really interests them. Once one of them has sniffed the ground he/she demonstrates the flehmen response. The mouth is open to allow air containing scents and pheromones to be breathed in and transferred to the vomeronasal organ (also called Jacobson’s organ) which is situated in the roof of the mouth and accessed by a duct that is just behind the upper front teeth.

The scents that interest this cat are probably pheromones from other snow leopards that carry information about those snow leopards. Perhaps there are territorial issues.

Scientists place camera traps at major points along trails and junctions which the cats are likely to frequent.

I think this is a great video of this elusive and endangered wild cat species. They live in barren, desolate, cold places and feed on blue sheep a lot of the time. They are fantastic rock climbers.

When the flehmen response is done by a domestic cat, some people who are unaware of this behavior believe the cat is sneering at them, or angry, or something like that. This is far from the truth. The snow leopard flehmen response is more pronounced. The mouth is open wider and the large tongue flops out. Cats don’t do this. Their mouth is opened slightly and they remain still while the Jacobson’s organ processes the scent.

All cats will hold the position for several seconds. You can almost see the brain turning over the information while this happens.

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Snow Leopard’s Flehmen Response on Camera Trap Video — 8 Comments

  1. Such beautiful cats and ‘reading’ and leaving messages just like our domestic cats do.
    Walt and Jo always have a good ‘read’ if a strange cat has been in our garden and then leave a rude message in liquid saying ‘do not return’ lol

    • Hi Dee, the resources that I have state they don’t know in answer to your question. In one study, at one year of age cubs were still with their mother even though they were trained or were being trained to hunt. My guess is sometime after one year of age.

      One of the outstanding anatomical features of the snow leopard is the tail. It is very long and thick for balance on rocky 40 degree slopes. All climbing cats (tree and rock) have impressive tails.

  2. They are incredibly beautiful I’m pleased they at least stand more of a chance than most. Their tails are so thick and long as well does this help with balance if they are great climbers?

    • Where are you? 😉 The snow leopard is my favorite cat. You know what I love about them. They live in high plains and remote places and survive as far away from people as a cat can be. They still bump into people and have trouble with people but they probably have the best chance of survival of all the wild cat species because they live in an area that will always be unpopular for people.

        • I read that a well known film maker went to the high plains in the Himalayas to film the snow leopard. Three months later he hadn’t seen one! Despite having the best guide. The snow leopard has wisely learned to keep a good distance between itself and humans whenever possible.

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