How the snow leopard prey in different seasons

The snow leopard lives in the plateaus and high valleys of the major mountains of Central Asia, within the borders of Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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How the snow leopard prey in different seasons

The snow leopard lives in the plateaus and high valleys of the major mountains of Central Asia, within the borders of Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its geographical distribution extends from the Hindu Kush, in the north-eastern part of Afghanistan, up to China, where it is found on the mountainous reliefs of Xinjiang, on the Pamir, in the Altyn-Tagh and in the mountainous regions of Gansu and Western Sichuan.

The snow leopard also inhabits Pakistan and the southern Himalayas: Gilgit, Hunza, Kashmir, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan. It also lives in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, in Zungaria, in the Altai mountains, around Lake Baikal and in southern Siberia up to the Saiani mountains, on the border with Mongolia.

The snow leopard lives in the highlands between 3350 and 6700 m of altitude. The scholars of the Snow Leopard Survival Strategy have tried, despite the difficulties, to make an estimate of the population of this animal, evaluating it on 4080-6590 specimens.

However, fewer than 2,500 specimens of breeding age are feared.

How the snow leopard prey in different seasons

Seasonal variation in daily activity patterns of snow leopards and their prey, published on the Scientific reports, explained: "The daily and seasonal activity patterns of snow leopards are poorly understood, limiting our ecological understanding and hampering our ability to mitigate threats such as climate change and retaliatory killing in response to livestock predation.

We fitted GPS-collars with activity loggers to snow leopards, Siberian ibex, and domestic goats in Mongolia between 2009 and 2020. Snow leopards were optionally nocturnal with season-specific crepuscular activity peaks: seasonal activity shifted towards night-sunrise during summer, and day-sunset in winter.Snow leopard activity was in contrast to their prey, which were consistently diurnal.

We interpret these results in relation to: darkness as concealment for snow leopards when stalking in an open landscape, low-intermediate light preferred for predatory ambush in steep rocky terrain, and sea sonal activity adjustments to facilitate thermoregulation in an extreme environment.

These patterns suggest that to minimize human-wildlife conflict, livestock should be corralled at night and dawn in summer, and dusk in winter. It is likely that climate change will intensify seasonal effects on the snow leopard's daily temporal niche for thermoregulation in the future."