What is Pelage?

camera trap photos of two cats showing markings used as identification

Here are some photographs of snow leopards that were taken by camera traps in Hemis National Park in Northern India. (If you want to know more about camera traps, see our camera trap page.) The photos show two individual cats that the wildlife biologists who are working in that area have named “HNP-1” and “HNP-3.” (HNP stands for Hemis National Park, but you knew that didn’t you?) How do the biologists know that these are two separate cats? They have used unique spot patterns in the snow leopard’s pelage to identify them.

In the photographs, red lines indicate the main features used for identification, and the blue lines indicate secondary features. The number of features may be different in each photpgraph depending on how the snow leopard was positioned when the photograph was taken.