New Trip Report: Snow Leopards of Ladakh

Yet another Snow Leopard report, this time from Coke Smith who got to Ladakh the day I left. He saw more Snow Leopards than we did and got closer too. I’m sorry if you haven’t seen a Snow Leopard. This rash of reports must be torture. I suffered too for 5 years so I can empathise

Ladakh, 2014: 2 weeks & 9 species including Snow Leopard, Urial and Siberian Ibex. Great images as always.



  • Farnborough John

    Thoroughly enjoyed the pictures. I’m not good at heights so I’m unlikely ever to get to see Snow Leopard. Couple of IDs though: the eagle seems to be a Steppe Eagle (note the wing pattern and white uppertail band) and the shorebird is a Green Sandpiper, not a Greenshank.

  • europesbig5kej

    Great report! Prolonged views of the Shan equal with the first EB5 Snow Leopard encounter. It’s clear they are always there when ever the period. And it’s just about being patient, concentrated, focused and of course: lucky! You were for sure! Btw, we encountered the same odd pack of wolfdogs on our way to Ulley last December. Those roaming the Lake Tsokar area undoubtfull and clearly of the Tibetan sub species. As the same with their genuine prey there: Tibetan Wild Ass.

  • vdinets

    Farnborough John: there is a place in Russia where snow leopards occur at low elevation around a large reservoir, but the population there is tiny and you have to accompany the people who do radio-collaring to have a chance. It’s called Sayano-Shushensky Zapovednik (Preserve).

  • tomeslice

    Well.. You win some-you lose some..
    We were there for 9.5 days and never got as close as you did, which makes me very jealous 🙂 Amazing picture, Coke!

    On the other hand, we did see the two mustelids which I REALLY wanted to see, as Jon so humorously mentioned in his report. So we definitely had a different experience, but most importantly – we all got to experience the altitude sickness and physical hardships… Oh, wait, no that’s not the most important, let me rephrase: Most importantly – we all got to see the snow leopard! There you go.

    In another note, I’m no Pika expert (despite spending good amounts of time looking at 3 resources and trying to distinguish between and identify all the pikas that were photographed by 2 groups during our stay there) but I’m almost convinced that the pika you identified as “royale’s Pika” in at least 2 pictures is in fact also a large-eared pika. Jon, Jason, and Charles, each of whom has now earned the title “Royale’s Pika” based on their newly-acquired pika expertise – do you agree?
    It’s that age-old Pika ID question.

    Anyway, great report Coke!!! I’m also very happy for you and your family 🙂

  • Jon Hall

    I promise I will do some work on Pikagate this weekend! Some of the animals that Jason photographed do indeed look rather different, but without being sure how different Royle’s and Large-eared are in reality I am reluctant to have an opinion on whether or not we are simply seeing intra-specific variation. I hope that Avi and others will know more though and will drop him a line now


  • tembo10

    Those Pika do look different to the Large-eared to me; even more so after a couple of beers. I remember that in every mammal book that we looked at in India about Pika’s, the description almost exactly matched the photograph of a different species on the page. So basically I’m flumoxed. Great pictures Coke. I’m really happy for you. Honest…

  • PandaSmith

    Thanks so much for the great comments everyone! I am all for a “Pikagate”! I was thinking similarly with the second Pika but the ears were so much smaller and all of our guides kept calling him Royles. I was not convinced completely however. But the ears were about 40% smaller or so. The habitat was similar and I have NO idea about any other diagnostics for the group. The literature I had on hand said there were three in the area that virtually indistinguishable. So I am hoping for more direction here for sure. And I thought that bird looked more like a sandpiper! I agree about the Steppe Eagle too.

    Yes we were exceedingly lucky. I still cannot wrap my head around it all. Well worth all the exhaustion and cold! We had a wonderful time. Cokie, our little man, is still telling his buds at school who look at him with this, “you are full of ….” -looks of disbelief… He’s used to that however.


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