Skiers Stumble Across Endangered Snow Leopard

Isn't skiing scary enough?

Skiers chanced upon a rare snow leopard as they zipped down a mountainside in India.

The endangered big cat was crouching in the snow on a tree-dotted slope at Gulmarg Resorts in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Owen Lansbury, a 42-year-old Australian, was in a group of five skiers when he caught the astonishing sight on his head camera.

Lansbury posted a video from the encounter on Facebook last Thursday, and it's now going viral. The footage shows the animal almost completely camouflaged by the white powder.

"I stopped just as it huddled in the snow, where it stayed for about a minute, checking us out," he told the India Times.

"It then let out a solid roar and bounded away down the slope towards [American tour guide Dave Marchi], but scooted off into the forest, where we think it probably had a kill stashed."

"Pretty amazing experience," he added.

Here's Lansbury's full unedited video, now on Vimeo.

Asked if he was scared when he saw the animal, Lansbury said the leopard was probably more frightened than he was.

"It was hiding in the snow and was watching us and waiting for a moment to run," he told The Indian Express.

There are only 6,000 wild snow leopards left in the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund, their numbers have dropped by 20 percent in the last 20 years, mainly due to loss of habitat, poaching and climate change.

Snow leopards can usually be found at altitudes of 9,000 to 16,000 feet in the mountains of Central Asia, with an estimated 200 to 600 living in India. They grow up to 5 feet long and can weigh up to 120 pounds.

There have only been two reported cases of snow leopards attacking humans since 1940. Neither were fatal.

Snow leopards aren't the only danger in the region, however.

Many governments, including the U.S., advise citizens not to travel to Jammu and Kashmir, which borders Pakistan, due to civil unrest and the threat of terrorism.

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