- What snow leopards eat varies depending on their location, but the cat most often hunts wild sheep and goats.
The three most important prey species for snow leopards are the blue sheep (also known as bharal), the Asiatic ibex (a large wild goat), and the argali (another wild sheep species). Availability of wild prey is the most important factor that determines if an area can be suitable for the cats.
- 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.
- There appear to be slight differences between the diets and predation patterns of males and females:
- Snow leopards are opportunistic predators and sometimes hunt livestock (such as sheep, goats, horses, or young yaks), especially stragglers that get left behind in pastures.
- 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.