Last April, we began to notice that Tenger was refining her home range to a very small area- a behavior that indicated she may have been pregnant and had found a den site. There is no way for our researchers to confirm a wild snow leopards’ pregnancy, but close attention was paid to her activities and we are almost certain she gave birth to cubs around the first of May!
Our researchers in the field began to search for Tenger’s den in mid-June with the hopes of PIT tagging the cubs with a microchip similar to those used to identify pets. Cub expert Per Ahlqvist from the Grimso Wildlife Research Station in Sweden came to help locate and potentially handle the cubs. Field Research Orjan describes the search:
“Outside a nice cave someone had played with the bushes and chewed on the stems, ought to be the cubs. Spent several hours searching the whole area but found nothing more than chewed bushes and snow leopard pugmarks. We are guessing that Tenger gave birth around the first of May, which means the cubs are 6-7 weeks old now. Tenger probably left the original den and the cubs are moving around fairly well. The cubs are probably so big that they move around the canyon and can find hiding places themselves. Tons of rocks, caves, crevices, big thorny bushes, ect. that a cub can hide under. No luck finding them.”
We followed her GPS locations and searched difficult terrain for nearly two weeks, but she hid her cubs so well that we were unable to catch anything more than a glimpse of Tenger. By the end of the month, the cubs are too active to handle and so PIT tagging was no longer considered. Motion sensing cameras were placed throughout the area, however, and hopefully we will see a picture of the new family soon!