- Initially, the confrontation begins with both snow leopards marking opposite sides of the same rock. This is a behavior wild cats engage in to claim territory.
- Soon, the confrontation turns violent, with both leopards engaging each other over who this rock belongs to.
- The fight ends without either leopard being seriously injured or killed.
This is an exceptionally rare and fascinating opportunity to observe an interaction between two snow leopards and examine their body language. Snow leopards are found in Asia and Eurasia where they live in mountainous habitats. They have a distinctive pale gray coat with gray spots and a lean and agile body. In terms of numbers, they are a vulnerable population and sightings are rare.
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Snow Leopard Territorial Behavior and Scent Marking
At the start of this clip, the two snow leopards (the national animal of Pakistan) are some distance apart. Despite their excellent camouflage they have clearly spotted each other. One snow tiger starts to scrape the ground with their hind feet. This is part of their scent marking behavior which is associated with letting other leopards know that they are laying claim to a particular territory. Both sexes mark territory but male leopards do it more often than females. Scraping the ground is accompanied by urine spraying and/or by emptying anal sacs.
Without taking their eyes off each other, the snow leopards both move forward. This time they crouch down with the ends of their tails flicking slightly. You may have seen domestic cats do something similar when they are slightly cross about something.
Fighting for Dominance on a Rock
The scent marking behavior continues when the snow leopards are right next to each other. One of them rubs its cheek against the rock and this behavior is often associated with territory marking. Then, the other one does the same on the other side of the rock. There is clearly a dispute over exactly who this rock belongs to! Finally, the stalemate is broken and things get physical. Both animals use their paws to bat the other on the head. This species has large paws as they need them to act as snow shoes when they are walking on snow. You may also notice the very log tails – these are used for balance as they leap over cliffs.
There is a brief tussle and one leopard falls off the rock. Before long the conflict is over and the dispute seems to be resolved.
Leopards are usually solitary animals and avoid confrontation with their own species. However, during aggressive encounters they have been seen growling, snarling, spitting and hissing.
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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Abeselom Zerit/Shutterstock.com
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