Prey

A snow leopard is a powerful hunter able to successfully take down an animal 3 times its own weight. The snow leopard’s diet varies depending on its location, but the cat most often hunts wild sheep and goats. The two most important prey species for snow leopards are the blue sheep, or bharal (Pseudois nayaur) and the Asiatic ibex (Capra ibex), a large wild goat.

Snow Leopard Prey Species

Snow leopards eat slowly, usually taking 3 or 4 days to consume a prey animal. During that time, the cat remains near the kill site to defend the meal from scavengers like vultures and ravens, eating every few hours until the carcass is bare. Snow leopards hunt a large animal every 8-10 days on average.

Snow leopards are opportunistic predators and sometimes hunt livestock (such as sheep, goats, horses, or young yaks) when domestic animals are available and wild prey are not. In some areas, snow leopards have been known to enter a corral and kill multiple animals. Predation on domestic livestock may increase in winter when hunting is difficult because of scarce wild prey and harsh weather.

Blue Sheep in Snow India

a couple of blue sheep caught on camera in India

Scientists have also found that snow leopards eat notable quantities of grass, twigs, and other vegetation. This is something quite common among cats, but it seems that snow leopards eat more plant material than their feline kin. The vegetation may serve as a source of extra vitamins, aid in digestion, or help the cats eliminate parasites—no one knows for sure.

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