A snow leopard’s spots are a thing of beauty, and in this case, that beauty is skin-deep.
That's because the pigmented spots go beyond the furry surface and are actually part of the snow leopard's skin itself.
You can see it here in this shaved patch on one of our snow leopard cubs. The cubs each had a tiny patch shaved during their first health exam to help zookeepers tell them apart on the internal web cam we use to monitor mom and cubs. Notice how the rosette on the shaved patch continues from fur to skin.
Snow leopard spots aren’t just for looking pretty. They provide critical camouflage for these hunters, allowing them to blend into their rocky environment as they stalk prey. However, that camouflage and slinky elusiveness also make them difficult to study in the wild!
That’s why our conservation partners at the Snow Leopard Trust use hidden cameras that are motion-activated to snap photos of wild snow leopards and track their otherwise hard-to-spot patterns and behaviors. Our very own snow leopards at Woodland Park Zoo have helped to test the technology, allowing field researchers to perfect their methodologies before heading out to the wilds of Central Asia.
Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo. Video by Snow Leopard Trust.