Snow Leopard Facts

Snow Leopard Facts


Snow Leopards

Hear about Snow Leopards:

snow leopard Common Name: Snow Leopard
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Pantherinae Uncia
Species: uncia

Misc.: This species, like the clouded leopard, is one of those that is somewhere between the small cats and the great cats in that it can’t purr like the small cats and it can’t roar like the true great cats. It makes a happy sound similar to the tiger’s chuffing.

Its greatest threats are the hunting of its main prey species in the mountains, and the poisoning of other of its prey species, leaving the snow leopard with out a means of sustaining itself. There is also a demand now for snow leopard bones in traditional Chinese medicine as a substitute for tiger bones. Unfortunately, there is still a demand for fur coats from snow leopard skins in some countries, but luckily that has greatly diminished. At one time here in the US, a coat from a snow leopard sold for up to $50,000.00.

Sub-Species: A single species – There has been some attempt to recognize different sub-species of snow leopard, but at this time all attempts have been rejected.

Size and Appearance: The snow leopard is unique among the felids for the smokey-gray coloring of its coat patterned with dark gray rosettes and spots, and because of that it became nearly extinct. It’s unique color makes an ideal camouflage in its mountain environment of bare rocks and snow. Further adaptations for high altitude life include an enlarged nasal cavity, shortened limbs, well developed chest muscles, long hair with a dense, wooly undercoat, and a tail over 3 feet long. They use their tails like a coat in the winter, wrapping it around themselves when lying or sitting for added warmth. Snow leopards molt twice a year with the summer coat being not quite as dense as the winter one. Males weigh between 90-115 lbs, with females weighing between 75-90lbs. Their skull is large, short and broad with a short muzzle, resembling the Siberian lynx in its appearance. They have round pupils like the great cats, varying in color from pale yellow to green-grey. Their broad footpads are covered with fur to provide insulation as well as increasing the surface area allowing them to distribute their weight more evenly over the snow.

In captivity, Snow leopards usually die young due to compromised immune systems.

Habitat: The snow leopard ranges includes alpine meadows, treeless rocky mountains and rhododendron forests. Most of their range occurs in Tibet and other parts of China associated with steep rocky slopes, with arid shrub land, grassland or steppe vegetation. Occasionally, in parts of their habitats they visit open coniferous forests, but generally avoid dense forests. They are found at high elevations of 3000-4500 meters (9800 ft – 14800 ft.), and even higher in the Himalayas.

Distribution: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan.

Reproduction and Offspring: The snow leopards reproductive season is from early January to mid March which is the time when vocalizations can most commonly be heard. Litters of 1-5 (most commonly 2-3) will occur following a 98-104 day gestation period. They are born beneath rocks or in rock crevices and their dens are lined with fur. Their spots at birth are completely black, developing into rosettes with age. Their eyes open between 7-10 days, they begin crawling after 10 days, and begin eating solid foods at 2 months. The young will leave their mothers between the ages of 18-22 months, and siblings may stay together for some time following their independence. They will reach sexual maturity between 2-3 years and stay reproductive up until they are 15.

snow leopard hissingSocial System and Communication: Unknown. Some evidence leads to the conclusion that they are solitary except for breeding pairs and mothers with offspring. Territories are marked with scrapes, scats, scent sprays and claw rakings. While it is believed that they have large territories, it is also believed that the territories of multiple animals of both sexes overlap.

Hear our chuffs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE

Hunting and Diet: Snow leopards are very opportunistic hunters capable of killing prey up to 3 times their own weight. They will also equally take small prey, more so in the summer months when marmots become a main staple in their diets. Their most common prey sources are:  wild sheep and goats; pikas; hares; game birds. They kill on the average of 1 large prey item every 10-15 days and stay with the kill for 3-4 days.

Status: Appendix I CITES. There are believed to be 5000 to 7500 of these great cats left in the wild and 476 in captivity. There are only 28 of these cats paired in approved SSP breeding programs.

Felid TAG recommendation: Snow leopard (Pantherinae Uncia uncia). This species has functioned well with a target population of 200 animals. In addition to having a large founder base, new founders are available from captive sources in Europe and range-country zoos. This species does well in captivity, is managed by a wide variety of owners, and now has a stable population in nature.

How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 476 in zoos worldwide, with 236 being in the U.S.

Information taken from IUCN Status Survey and Feline Facts (SOS Care)

Help Save Snow Leopards:



Meet our former snow leopard friends:


Snow Leopards of BCR


Margay Facts

Margay Facts


Common Name: Margay
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Leopardus)
Species: wiedii

Misc: Of all of the felines, the Margay is most adapted for a true arboreal life. It is the only cat to possess the ability to rotate its hind legs 180° , enabling it to run head first down trees like squirrels. It can also hang from a branch by one hind foot!

Size and Appearance: This cat is often confused with its near relatives the Ocelot and the Oncilla. Their coats are very similar, and like the others – the Margay’s is a tawny background patterned with black-ringed rosettes and elongated blotches. The fur is thick and plush, and their tail is quite long – averaging 70% of its head and body length. The tail is used as a counterweight to aid in balance. Size wise – the Margay is right in between the Ocelot and the Oncilla weighing between 9-20 pounds and reaching lengths of 34-52 inches. The Margay also has extremely large eyes, which aids in its nighttime vision.

Habitat: The Margay is associated with forest habitat, both deciduous and evergreen. They have occasionally been spotted in shady cocoa or coffee plantations and riverine forests.

Distribution: Mexico, the Amazon Basin, Argentina, Uruguay, Belize and Brazil. Extinct in Texas, USA

Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 76-84 days, females produce a litter of 1 kittens. They weigh 2.75-6 ounces at birth and will open their eyes at around 2 weeks old. They are weaned around 2 months of age, and captive females reach sexual maturity around 6-10 months, although they may not reproduce for several months after that.

In captivity, Margays have lived up to 20 years.

Social System and Communication: Unknown.

Hunting and Diet: The primary diet of this cat consists of small arboreal mammals such as big-eared climbing rats, squirrels, opossums, small birds, porcupines, marmosets, capuchins, three-toed sloths, birds and even fruits. Their terrestrial diet consists of various rats and cavies.

Principal Threats: The biggest threat has been the exploitation of its pelt for the fur trade, which reached numbers of 14,000 per year. That number is believed to be greatly underestimated as it was seldom verified which spotted cat the pelts originated from. Sadly, in some areas, illegal hunting for domestic markets or underground fur trade still presents a problem for this little cat. Its greatest threat today, however, is deforestation of its natural habitat. Because of the Margay’s inability to produce large litters (or litters with multiple births!) combined with the fact that they only reproduce once every 2 years and the kitten mortality rate is 50%, their outlook for survival, both in the wild and in captivity, is grim.

Status: CITES: Appendix I. IUCN: Insufficiently known.

Felid TAG recommendation: Margay (Leopardus wiedii). Although popular with zoos and private owners, the margay is more difficult to breed than other small, spotted neotropical felids. The present population in North American zoos is likely nonviable. Given their conservation status and the lack of captive reproduction in range-country zoos, this species is recommended for Phase-Out.

How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 64 worldwide, with 26 being in the U.S.

Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.


Serval Facts

Serval Facts



Sarah2.jpg (130951 bytes)Common Name: Serval
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Leptailurus)
Species: Serval (L.s. constantina)
Barbary Serval thought to now be Extinct

Misc: The name Serval is derived from a Portuguese word meaning “wolf-deer.”

Size and Appearance: Often referred to as the cat of spare parts, this unusual, but beautiful cat is among the feline family’s most successful. It has a small, delicate head and extremely large ears set on an elongated neck, long slim legs (hind legs longer than front), long slender body and a short tail. The ears are black on the back with a distinctive white spot, and the tail has 6 or 7 black rings and a black tip. The coat color is pale yellow with black markings, either of large spots that tend to merge into longitudinal stripes on the neck and back, or of numerous small spots, which give a speckled appearance. These “speckled” Servals from west Africa – called servalines – used to be considered a separate species Felis brachyura, until it was demonstrated that the speckled pattern was just a variation or “morph”.

Habitat: Servals are found in well-watered savannah long-grass environments, and are associated with reed beds and other riparian vegetation types. They occupy a variety of habitats all associated with water sources, they range up into alpine grasslands and can penetrate deep dense forests along waterways and through grassy patches, but are absent from rain forests. They will make use of arid areas in extreme instances, and have occasionally done so in parts of south-western Africa.

Distribution: sub-Saharan Africa, with small populations in south-west Africa, and a reported relict population in North Africa (no recent sightings confirmed).

Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 73 days, females produce a litter of 1-5 kittens, with 2 being the average. They weigh in at around 8.5-9 ounces at birth, and it will take 9-12 days until their eyes open. They begin to take solid foods around the age of 3 weeks, and are independent between 6-8 months, but may remain in their natal ranges. They attain sexual maturity between 18-24 months, and it is at this time that they will be forced out of their mother’s territory.

In captivity, Servals have lived past 20 years at Big Cat Rescue and up to 19 years in other facilities.

Social System and Communication: Servals are solitary animals, and social interactions are limited to periods of mating. Each sex maintains its own territory. Hear our chirps, purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE

Serval at Big Cat RescueHunting and Diet: Much like the big bad wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood” the Servals big ears are “the better to hear you with!” The serval’s sensitive hearing allows it to locate small mammals moving through the grass or underground, and to hunt its prey sometimes without seeing it until the final pounce. It also has the ability to leap vertically and catch prey such as birds, right out of the air. They do this by “clapping” with their front paws together and striking with a downward blow. Primary prey items for the Serval includes rodents, birds, reptiles, fish, frogs and insects. Servals have a hunting success rate of 50%.

Principal Threats: the main threats to Servals are leopards, dogs, and of course, man. Because of their beautiful pelage, they are a prime target for poachers. Their skins are sold as young leopards or cheetahs, which are much scarcer. The pelt trade for they are sold is mostly for domestic ceremonial, medicinal purposes or the tourist trade rather than for commercial export. There is also the issue of preserving the land that makes up their homeland, which is destroyed by human encroachment or from annual burning of grasslands. Some tribes hunt and kill the Serval for their flesh, which is considered a delicacy.

Status: CITES: Appendix II. IUCN: Not listed.

Felid TAG recommendation: Serval (Leptailurus serval). Common in nature and captivity, this species is important for institutions with zoogeographic themes, as well as for educational uses. Most specimens probably can be traced to a subspecies. Currently, there are more servals in zoos than recommended by the RCP. The PMP target population is 80 individuals. 91% of the population is of unknown origin and not suitable for breeding. The first stud book ever was published for this species in 2003.

How rare is this cat? The International Species Information Service lists 292 in zoos worldwide, with 130 being in the U.S.



Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.



Servals of BCR

Meet our serval friends:

Sand Cat Facts

Sand Cat Facts

Sand Cat


Common Name: Sand Cat
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Felis)
Species: margarita
Misc: This is one of the more difficult cats to study in the wild. Their foot coverings allow them to walk on sand without sinking, leaving their footprints nearly invisible.  They have learned to crouch down and shut their eyes when a light is shone on them, which prevents the light from reflecting their eyes for tracking. That combined with their protective coat color makes them blend right into their habitat. They also bury all of their excrement making it impossible to find and analyze so their diet can be studied.

Subspecies: F.m margarita – The Sahara
F.m. thinobia – Turkestan
F.m. scheffeli – Pakistan
F.m. harrisoni – Arabia, Jordan (Pictured on both pages)

Size and Appearance: Sand Cats weigh in at 4-8 pounds and reach lengths of 29-36 inches, and heights of 10-12 inches. It has a dense soft fur that is a pale sand or gray color above and paler underneath. It has large ears and a broad head, and a reddish streak that runs from its eyes across its cheeks. The ears are reddish-brown and black-tipped. There are faint stripes running down the flanks and black bands running around the tops of the front legs. The tail has 2-3 black rings towards its black tip. The feet are covered with a thick layer of wiry black hair, which insulates the footpads against extremes of heat and cold, and allows for easier movement through the sand. They are prolific diggers, and their claws are not very sharp for lack of places to sharpen them in the desert.

Habitat: Sandy and stony deserts.

Distribution: From the Sahara through the Middle East to Turkestan.

Reproduction and Offspring: These cats have been reported to have 2 litters per year in parts of their territory in both March-April, and again in October. Gestation is 59-63 days, after which females produce a litter of 2-4 kittens. At birth, the newborns weigh approximately 1.5-2 ounces, and will gain about 12 grams per day. Their eyes will normally be open by the 14th day, and they will begin to walk by the 21st day. They begin to take solid food at 5 weeks and become independent by 3-4 months. They reach sexual maturity around 10-12 months.

In captivity, they have lived up to 13 years, but have a high juvenile mortality rate (41%).

Social System and Communication: Solitary.

Because their populations are so few, they have a loud mating call, which resembles the barking of a small dog. Their other vocalizations include meowing, growling, hissing, spitting, screaming and purring. Hear our purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE

SandCat.jpg (115839 bytes)Hunting and Diet: Primarily nocturnal, they hunt by digging. Their highly developed hearing allows the to locate prey which is not only sparsely distributed, but underground as well. Their primary diet consists of 3 species of gerbils. It also includes birds, reptiles and arthropods. They are also known for being snake hunters, which they kill with a rapid blow to the head that stuns, and then administer the death bite to the neck. Sand Cats will also cover large kills with sand and return later to feed.

Principal Threats: Habitat degradation is the major threat to the sand cat. Vulnerable arid ecosystems are being rapidly degraded by human settlement and activity, especially livestock grazing (Allan and Warren 1993, Al-Sharhan et al. 2003). The sand cat’s small mammal prey base depends on having adequate vegetation, and may experience large fluctuations due to drought (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002), or declines due to desertification and loss of natural vegetation.

Other localized threats include the introduction of feral and domestic dogs and cats, creating direct competition and through predation and disease transmission (Nowell and Jackson 1996). They also may be killed in traps laid out by inhabitants of oases targeting foxes and jackals or in retaliation for killing their chickens (De Smet 1989; Dragesco-Joffé 1993). There are occasional reports of animals shot in south-east Arabia (M. Strauss pers. comm.)

Status: CITES: Appendix II (except F.m. scheffeli which is on Appendix I). IUCN: Insufficiently known (F.m. scheffeli is classified Endangered).

Felid TAG recommendation: Sand cat (Felis margarita). Sand cats have a long history of living in North American zoos, but have been poorly managed. Two populations exist, one that is hybridized and another derived from an Israeli population. The TAG recommends an SSP with a target population of 80 individuals, all to consist of F. m. harrisoni, the race from the Arabian peninsula. The American SSP and European EEP have joined forces in their breeding plans as neither continent has enough diversity to sustain their populations.

How rare is this cat? The International Species Information Service lists 116 worldwide, with 36 being in the U.S.

Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.



Sandcats of BCR


Meet our sand cat friends:



Ocelot Facts

Ocelot Facts


Common Name: Ocelot
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Leopardus)
Species: pardalis
Misc: This cat is probably the best known of the South American cats because of its pelt being the mainstay of the fur trade, and for the fact that it was frequently kept as a pet. Due the fact that Ocelots are high strung, unpredictable, comedic little cats, humans de-fanged, de-clawed, de-scented, and altered these cats in order to make them conform to the “pet” industry. Like all exotic cats, these creatures, male or female, altered or not, spray a foul smelling urine on everything they wish to mark as theirs including their keepers. In the 1980’s, Ocelot fur coats sold for $40,000.00 and the live animal as a pet sold for $800.00. At one time, more than 200,000 ocelots per year were killed for their coats. Today, with laws prohibiting hunting for the fur trade, there are no Ocelot coats for sale, and the “pet” Ocelot is a thing of the past. At Easy Street, we have turned down offers of $15,000.00 for just one of ours!

Size and Appearance: The Ocelot is much larger than its cousins the Margay and the Oncilla, although they bear a striking resemblance. The Ocelot weighs between 17-24 pounds, stands 16-20 inches tall, and reaches lengths of 48-64 inches. Its coat tends to be more blotched than spotted, and the chain-like blotches and spots are bordered with black, but have a lighter colored center. These markings run the entire length of the cat. The ground color varies from whitish or tawny yellow through reddish gray to gray. The underside is white, and the backs of the ears are black with a central yellow spot.

In captivity, Ocelots have lived more than 20 years, as compared to 7-10 years in the wild.

Habitat: The Ocelot is found in very diverse habitats including rain forest, montane forest, thick bush, semi-deserts, coastal marsh, and along river banks, but it is never found in open country.

Distribution: Southern Texas, and every country south of the U.S. except Chile.

Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of 79-85 days they produce a litter of 1-2 young. They weigh approximately 8.5 ounces at birth. The females reach maturity at around 1½ years, and around 2 ½ years for males. They become independent at around 1 year of age, but seem to be tolerated in their natal range for up to another year.

Social System and Communication: Ocelots are solitary and territorial. The females defend their exclusive territory, which can be as much as 9 sq. miles, while the male’s territory is larger and overlaps that of 1 or more females (can be as large as 35 sq. miles). Ocelots communicate by use of scent markings which tells the males when she is ready for mating, and by vocal communications such as meows and yowls (in heat). Hear our purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE

Hunting and Diet: The Ocelot is a terrestrial hunter and active during the night (nocturnal), and the mainstay of its diet are nocturnal rodents, such as cane mice, and marsh, spiny and rice rats, opossums and armadillos. They will also take larger prey such as lesser anteaters, deer, squirrel monkeys and land tortoises. They will also take advantage of seasonal changes and the abundance of fish and land crabs during the wet season. Occasionally, the will take birds and reptiles. However, the majority of prey items for this cat weigh less than 1-3% of its body weight.

Principal Threats: Ocelots have a small litter size, one of the longest gestations and growth rates among the small felids, and a high infant mortality rate. Add this difficulty in sustaining its own population with deforestation and habitat destruction, and the survival of this beautiful little species becomes even more difficult.

Status: IUCN: Not listed. CITES: Appendix I.

Felid TAG recommendation: Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). Although once commonly imported for pets, legal animals have not been available until the last 2 years, and today most ocelots are of unknown or hybrid ancestry. The TAG is recommending that the Brazilian ocelot, L. p. mitis, be the subspecies acquired by North American zoos because captive propagation now is occurring in some Brazilian zoos. Orphaned individuals also have been allowed to be exported. Recently three pairs were imported into North America by AZA zoos. The target population of this species is 120 individuals. Although only a PMP is in operation, the TAG recommends that it be upgraded to SSP status as soon as possible. The Brazilian Ocelot Consortium is the main focus for saving the ocelot.

How rare is this cat? The International Species Information Service lists 217 worldwide, with 108 being in the U.S.



Ocelots of BCR


Meet our ocelot friends:

Iberian Lynx Facts

Iberian Lynx Facts

Lynx Species – Spanish Lynx (Lynx pardinus)


The most rare species of Lynx is the Spanish Lynx. Its natural habitat is open forest and sand dunes in isolated areas of Spain and Portugal. It is an endangered species, with only 1,000 remaining in the wild. Its prized fur and label of agricultural pest has greatly reduced its range. It is now found mainly in a small enclave in Spain and few scattered populations in remote areas of Portugal.

There are noted differences from its relatives, the Eurasian Lynx: it is much smaller and its coat is more heavily marked with darker spots.

Its diet primarily consists of rabbits and hare, but will hunt deer, ducks, and fish. It can reach up to 54 pounds, head and body up to three feet, seven inches, tail up to five inches. The female will give birth to two to three young after a nine week gestation period.

Iberian Lynx


Iberian Lynx FactsCommon Name: Iberian Lynx, Spanish Lynx
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Lynx)
Species: pardina
Misc.: The debate continues whether or not the Iberian Lynx is in fact a separate species from the Canadian and Siberian Lynxes, or merely a subspecies. Experts are evenly divided on this subject, but for now, it remains a separate species based on its marked adaptive differences for prey capture. The name Lynx comes from the Greek word “to shine,” and may be in reference to the reflective ability of the cat’s eyes.

Size and Appearance: The Iberian Lynx is similar in its appearance to the Eurasian Lynx, but about half its size. Adult males weigh on the average 27.5 pounds and the females average 20. The fur is typically grayish, with tints varying from yellowish to rusty and is distinctly spotted. They have a flared facial ruff, long prominent black ear tufts, and long hind legs with a short black tipped tail. Their large, wide-spreading feet are covered in fur, which act like snowshoes, and are effective in supporting the cat’s weight on the snow. They are often confused with their smaller feline cousins the Bobcat, but can be easily distinguished by their tail tips. The tail of the Lynx looks as though it was dipped in an inkwell being black all the way around, whereas the Bobcat’s tail appears to have been painted black on top and white on the bottom.

Habitat: These Lynx are found to inhabit scrub vegetation, Mediterranean woodland and maquis thicket.

Distribution: The Iberian Peninsula.

Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 60 days, females produce a litter of 2-3 kittens. They reach independence by the age of 7-10 months, but will
remain in their natal territory until around 20 months old. Sexual maturity for this cat is directly related to demographic and environmental factors, and most females will not reproduce until a
territory has been secured. This may occur as early as her first winter, or as late as 5 years, or possibly never at all.

In the wild, Iberian Lynx have lived up to 13 years.

Social System and Communication: Unknown. Believed to be the same as the Eurasian Lynx, which would indicate a solitary animal except for mothers and kittens.

Hunting and Diet: Like the Canadian Lynx, the mainstay of this Lynx’s diet is the rabbit. During the winter months when rabbit populations are low, it will switch its prey base to red deer, fallow deer, mouflon and ducks. The energy requirements for this Lynx have been found to be 1 rabbit per day. These animals are primarily nocturnal, except during the winter months when they have diurnal activity peaks.

Principal Threats: The largest threat facing this Lynx is habitat destruction and the destruction of its prey base. The prey also suffered a major blow when an introduced disease – poxvirus myxomatosis – to which the European Hare had no natural immunity and was nearly decimated. By the time they started building a resistance to this disease and the numbers started to recover, a new disease –viral hemorrhagic pneumonia – took its place and killed a large number of adult rabbits. This cat also suffers at the hands of man, frequently being killed by traps and snares set for rabbits, and by being hit by cars as the number of roads increase. The Spanish Government is now in the process of developing a national conservation effort to save the Iberian Lynx.

Status: CITES: Appendix I. IUCN: Endangered.


*****Animals are also ranked by their level of vulnerability on a global level, which in essence ranks their extinction risk. They are ranked from Category 1 (critical) to Category 5 (common-low conservation priority). The Iberian Lynx is listed as Category 1, with less than 100 animals remaining in the wild.

Felid TAG recommendation: Spanish lynx (Lynx pardinus). Considered one of the rarest species on earth, the Spanish lynx suffers from having disjunct populations, continued habitat loss and accidental death from trappers and automobiles. Although the Spanish are making plans to initiate a captive-breeding program, it is not likely that this species will ever become available for export to North America.

Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.