One of the most secretive and elusive creatures in the wild also boasts arguably the most insane hunting skills on the planet.
With numbers estimated to be between 2,500 and 10,000, they’re pretty hard to find, and even harder to study, but from what we know, they’re some of the most fearsome hunters in the animal kingdom.
With specialized warming sinuses, massive (snow shoe-like) paws, and insanely thick fur, they’re are built for living in the harshest of cold temperatures, and their camouflage is as good as any animal in the world.
But make no mistake, nothing about life is easy for snow leopards. Known as “Ghosts of the Mountain” a solitary lifestyle atop the snow-covered rocky peaks of the Himalayas is Mother Nature at her absolute harshest.
Next time you open DoorDash or Uber Eats because you’re too lazy to walk out to your car and drive down the street for a burrito, just be glad you’ve never had to tumble 200 feet down the side of an icy, jagged cliff just to satisfy your hunger.
This female literally tackles a blue sheep off a cliff, and doesn’t let go the entire way down.
Now, you’d think to yourself, at what cost? Why risk significant injury just to secure a meal? Well, this big kitty was completely unharmed and emerged three days later on the same rocky mountainside, looking for her next meal.
Snow Leopard Runs Down The Side Of Cliff At Full Speed To Catch A Mountain Sheep
Snow leopards are just phenomenal animals.
Nicknamed the “Ghost of the Mountains” they are one of the most elusive predators in the entire world, they have learned to survive in some of harshest environments on Earth.
Native to the mountain regions of Asia, you can find snow leopards in countries like China, India, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, and more, however since they inhabit such difficult and hazardous terrain, the full extent of their range, or population, isn’t fully known.
With numbers estimated to be between 2,500 and 5,000, they are just hard to find, and even harder to study.
Snow leopards primarily prey upon the blue sheep (also known as a bharal) in the Himalayas, in addition to the mountain ibex which can be found across most of their range. They also eat deer, wild goats known as markhors, urial (a mountain sheep), as well as smaller mammals like marmots and hares.
They actually have specialized warming sinuses, large (snow shoe-like) paws, and very dense fur, to help them survive and hunt in the coldest of temperatures.
And when it comes to hunting, they’re damn good at it.
They can run at top speeds of 40 miles per hour across steep mountain terrains, and jump across cliff gaps spanning up to 50 feet. I mean, we’re talking about freak athleticism here.
If you want to see one in action, look no further…
Here we have some photographers in India capturing some stunning footage of a snow leopard on the hunt, stalking a small group of urial (a kind of mountain sheep).
He spots the prey from above and in a flash, makes a beeline for the group, picking out what it perceives to be the weakest or slowest, or perhaps just the last to notice him in a dead sprint.
The sheep takes off down the mountain, and remember, this is a STEEP mountain face, and yet, both of these animals are adapted to run (or gracefully fall) down it with ease.
Our snow leopard stumbles a few times in the early going but manages to stay right on the tail of the urial who gets closer to the bottom (steeper drop offs) and winds up taking a devastating tumble. Meanwhile, the large cat precisely navigates the cliffs, jumping ledge to ledge, and meets the poor sheep at the bottom.
Seconds after the sheep thuds against the ground, kicking from a likely a fractured spine, the snow leopard is already in for the kill, firmly clamping down on the throat.
If you’ve ever done any mountain or hill running, you know how hard your momentum can get going downhill, and how difficult it can be to maintain your balance, at even a fraction of the speed seen here.
Nevertheless, these skillful hunters have mastered the terrain without a second thought.
If there is a more impressive animal in the world, I’m not sure I’ve seen it.
Also props to the guys behind the camera… excellent work.
Ghost of the mountains. Most Agile hunters. Snow leopard hunting near Ullay a Shyapu Ladakh Urial on 13th March. Sharing as received. pic.twitter.com/XginjJNOSS
While all big cats are awesome, there’s just something extra insane about a spotted, blue eyed killing machine…
This video from India shows a not in the best shape leopard casually walking on the side of a cliff, really it’s more of a wall, and he looked right at home, until he lost his footing and tumbled all the way down to the (also rock) ground below.
It had to be over 100 feet, that impact was not soft…
For a normal creature, that would have been all, done, toast. Nothing but food for the vultures.
But not for the powerful (and padded) snow leopard.
He shook it off like it was NOTHING, just another day in paradise.
Show this to anyone who says you need to lose the few extra pounds on the midsection. You never know when you’ll find yourself falling off a cliff, and when you do, it’ll be nice to have some extra protection…