Snow leopards are one of the smaller large cats, and if faced off with any of its larger relatives it would have quite a challenge on its hands. Yet snow leopards have so few predators, in fact, it has no natural predators, so what predators does a snow leopard have then?
Do Snow Leopards have Predators?
Snow leopards are apex predators in their habitat and have no natural predators. However, due to the human population increasing and encroaching onto snow leopard habitat, these once undisturbed felines have garnered some unnatural predators, such as humans and feral dogs.
In normal circumstances, snow leopards rest at the top of the food chain and can go about their day without the threat of being hunted.
However, in extremely rare circumstances these big cats can be preyed on by other animals, and even humans, for various reasons.
Snow leopard cubs are usually the ones most susceptible to these kinds of attacks due to their smaller size, slower movements, and overall more vulnerable state. Yet, attacks on adult snow leopards still aren’t as uncommon as one would think.
The most prevalent and well-known predators of the snow leopard are humans. These wild cats are known to be quite the trophy due to their rare nature and are usually hunted for the following reasons:
- Fashion: Their coats are widely sought after in the fashion industry and are often used to make coats and dresses. The beautiful snow leopard coat’s unique color and pattern makes them extremely fashionable and highly sought after commodities.
- Medicine: Various parts of the snow leopards’ bodies are also used for traditional medicinal purposes. Nations such as China and Tibet use different parts such as the snow leopard’s meat and bones to treat many different diseases.
- Sport: They are also hunted for sport and are considered to be extremely valuable trophies for hunters. Their rare and endangered status only seems to add to their sporting value and oftentimes, when presented the chance, sport hunters will, quite literally, shoot their shot.
- Retaliatory Killings: Some snow leopards can venture a little bit too close to humans in an attempt to hunt livestock. This leads farmers and other agricultural workers to hunt down or shoot these leopards on-site in an attempt to protect their goods.
Regardless, many poachers continue to illegally hunt and kill these big cats to sell them to the black market. Human participation is largely why these beautiful creatures remain endangered.
Despite several laws and arrests made in line with the illegal killing of the snow leopard, humans preying on these animals among others still remain quite the problem.
There have been many sightings of feral dogs, both alone and in packs, attacking the snow leopard in an attempt to deprive the latter of its fresh kill.
While the snow leopard can easily overpower one feral dog, a group or a whole pack can prove to be quite the challenge leaving the snow leopard no choice but to attempt to flee or fight them all.
These types of attacks are considered extremely rare but are growing in frequency. Still, this is included as one of the many challenges the snow leopard can experience in the wild.
How Snow Leopards Protect Themselves
The snow leopard’s status as an apex predator apparently does not completely protect it from facing threats. However, these feisty felines are also not without their defenses. Snow leopards protect themselves using various tactics:
- Camouflage – Being that humans are the number one predators of snow leopards thier camoflauge is thier most important defence. The snow leopard’s coats make it extremely easy for them to blend into their surroundings. This is a tactic that also proves useful when hunting prey.
- Speed and Agility – Their ability to quickly move and respond to their surroundings comes in handy when avoiding threats that may come their way. Whenever a snow leopard finds itself in a dangerous situation, it can easily run away and seek shelter in trees to escape other predators or perceived dangers.
- Strength – They are, of course, extremely strong and can retaliate and react with violence should the situation demand it. Thier strength is backed up with a can do attitude and snow leopards have been recorded diving off cliffs while still holding onto their prey.
- Keeping Cubs Close – Mother snow leopards have also adopted a system of moving their vulnerable cubs around in order to keep them safe from other predators. They also keep their cubs in close proximity at all times only letting them go once they reach the age of two years old. This behavior is being seen more frequently due the the harrasment from feral dogs.
Why Snow Leopards Don’t Have Many Predators
The main reason snow leopards have few predators is due to the habitat they live in. Not many other predators could sustain themselves in a snow leopards environment. Snow leopards have developed special skills to survive in the hostile spots they do and are masters of their domain.
Aside from the fact that they rest on the top of the food chain, these cats are also elusive in nature. This combined with their natural strengths among the reasons listed below makes it extremely hard for them to become prey.
- They are extremely hard to spot as they mainly reside on treetops of the high mountains of North and Central Asia. They are often referred to as the “Ghosts of the Mountains” due to their ability to camouflage and blend into their snowy and rocky environment with the color of their coats.
- Snow leoaprds are solitary animals spending much of their lives alone with the only other animals around them being below them on the food chain and presenting no danger. Snow leopards are almost always only spotted alone and do not interact with others aside for mating purposes. They also tend to keep to their own territories building a large distance between these big cats.
- .The crepuscular nature of the snow leopard also adds to its evasive nature. This means that they are most active during twilight which makes it harder to time when you can actually get a rare sight of these beautiful creatures. In addition to that, there is less competition for hunts during this time, therefore, creating less reason for other predators to try and attack these wild cats.
Usually, these strong, dominant animals only find themselves hunted down or at the risk of harm whenever there is an attack of retaliation, competition for resources, or infiltration of territory.
While snow leopards are considered to be at the top of the food chain in nature, they are not immune to threats. This is evidenced by their dwindling numbers and endangered status.
The good thing is efforts are currently being made to protect and preserve the numbers of these majestic creatures and allow them to live their lives in the wild in peace.
While we cannot completely eradicate all the predators of the snow leopard, we can make laws, initiatives, and efforts to put an end to their illegal killings.