Results of a field expedition to the Sayano-Shushensky Nature Reserve

Results of a field expedition to the Sayano-Shushensky Nature Reserve

31 March 2015

During the expedition, which took place in February and March 2015, the researchers examined the snow leopard habitat in the Sayano-Shushensky Nature Reserve and its protected zone. Having analysed the data, the researchers concluded that this area is inhabited by six snow leopards: two males (Mongol and Ikhtiandr) and a young female with three cubs.


The males’ territories overlap, but Mongol lives exclusively on the left bank of the water reservoir, which is part of the reserve, whereas Ikhtiandr also regularly visits the right bank that is part of the protected zone. Compared with the summer period, both leopards show up less often in the areas adjacent to the reservoir. This is probably due to the fact that they are now following deer that migrate higher in the mountains during winters with little snow.


Data from camera traps obtained during the expedition indicate that Mongol is still a strong rival to the younger Ikhtiandr. Some of the photos show them fighting for territory and the right to mate.


The female snow leopard, born in 2011, gave birth to her first litter early last summer. The cubs live and hunt with their mother, but are sometimes captured on trail cameras alone, so they have some degree of independence. Snow leopards become completely independent during the second year of their lives, when they usually leave the territory of their mother and explore new areas.


The participants of the field expedition tracked and counted snow leopards on six routes with a total length of about 50 km, replaced memory cards and batteries in camera traps, copied the information from them, and collected fecal samples for genetic analysis.


The field expedition was carried out as part of the project, Preserving and Restoring the Population of Snow Leopards in West Sayany Mountains, which is being implemented with the support of the Russian Geographical Society. The data obtained corroborate the researchers’ hypothesis that the territory inhabited by snow leopards and their movements has remained steady for several years now.