When you picture Mount Everest, the imagination conjures up images of blizzard-like conditions in a snowy, lifeless, alien world. We get most of those impressions from the movies and documentaries that only depict the most harrowing portions of a climb. The fact is, not only are there animals on Mount Everest, it's practically teeming with life.

I've decided to split this article up into two categories. One being rare animals and the other being animals you're almost certain to get a glimpse of when summiting.

If you're lucky, you can spot these rare animals:

And you'll almost certainly spot these animals:

Psst... hit one of the links above to read more about the animal.

There are more than that, of course. The most important thing to know is that most of the depictions of Mount Everest include only the harshest environments, well above the altitude where anything can or wants to live. Dive below that altitude, however, and there is so much more to see.

Animals you can encounter with a bit of luck

Most species of animals that live in the lower altitude areas on Mount Everest are considered rare. If you’re extremely lucky, you may catch a glimpse of one of the rarest and most endangered animals on earth - the snow leopard.

Snow leopards

snow leopard from the side

Mount Everest is part of the region in which these rare cats inhabit, including the mountains of Central Asia. Some experts place their total remaining population at 4,500 while more optimistic scientists claim that there are around 8,000 of them.

No matter what the population calculation of the day, snow leopards are endangered because of their fur. Like many animals in the wild that carry something of value, snow leopards were hunted to the point of extinction as poachers are desperate to get their hands on the rare and beautiful fur.

Of course, there are other factors to take into account as well, including territorial encroachment and retaliatory killings. The snow leopards tend to prey on the livestock of humans within their range and are killed to protect the livestock.

While the snow leopard is easily the rarest species on Mount Everest, there are other rare species as well. Oftentimes, the only way to see these animals in their natural habitat is to travel to Mount Everest.

Himalayan bears

himalayan bear sitting in a forest

The Himalayan bear is a species of black bears. While it is similar in size to the American black bear, it's also a little shaggier, with a thicker, almost mane-like amount of hair just behind its ears.

It does have one striking feature that American black bears lack. That is a distinct, white crest on its chest. It's perfectly centered, like a superhero costume but on a black bear that neither sees nor cares about superheroes.

They have a wide but linear range from east to west encompassing a broad swath of the Himalayas, never venturing far to the north or far to the south. Mount Everest sits in its far eastern range and slightly to the south.

Himalayan black bears range as far west as Khyber Pass, just southwest of K2. They’re omnivorous, like most bears, and get most of their daily nutrition from grass, fruit, and nuts. For their carnivorous side, they target small mammals, bees, eggs, honey (of course), and various invertebrates.

If you're curious as to how fast black bears can run, we've written an entire article covering exactly that!

Red pandas

red panda lying on a tree

Red pandas are interesting creatures in terms of how they look, like a fox somehow mixed themselves in the baby-making affairs of panda bears and raccoons. Their range is from Southwestern China to the Eastern Himalayas, which puts them squarely in Mount Everest territory.

They only reach about 14 lbs as adults and are around 23” in length. Their fur is a soft, red-brown color with the distinct, darker rings on their long, bushy tails that you often see with raccoons.

The red panda’s favorite food is bamboo, a resilient plant that they have somehow managed to tame and consume like a Snickers bar. Funnily enough, red pandas are closely related to the raccoon, which makes complete sense, and they have no relation to the panda bear, despite their name.

There is also skunk in the red panda bloodline, though they lack the little mechanism which gives skunks their name. The red panda is a highly energetic, voracious climber, and you will find them in the trees as often as they are on the ground.

Himalayan pikas

small pika lying on a stone

There are a lot of animals to be found in the Mount Everest region and on Mount Everest itself. Many of them carry the Himalayan name because the scientists who discovered them must have believed we needed to know they all live in the Himalayas.

The Himalayan pika is one such animal and, like the other animals on this list, it's on the rare side of things. If someone from America saw one, it would conjure images of rabbits, prairie dogs, and mice.

The pika is really small, maxing out at 8.6” for the largest of them, and they only weigh a few ounces. They are herbivores and live on the grasses and fruits that grow at lower altitudes in the Himalayas. A Himalayan black bear would happily make a Himalayan pika into a snack. The black bear is indeed one of the pika’s main threats.

They are considered rare to uncommon, however, no one has a more precise count of them because they are difficult to find. They love to dig and, like prairie dogs, have their own burrows to run to when danger is nearby.

Himalayan tahrs

large tahr lying on a rock

A species of mountain goat, the Himalayan tahr is high on the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List in terms of endangered species because apparently, human beings find them to be pretty delicious. The other reason is that they have lost much of their habitat.

When you watch those funny Tik Tok videos of two male goats head-butting each other with steel-shattering impacts that would crush a human skull, you’re most likely viewing Himalayan tahrs.

Their habitat is almost identical to the Himalayan black bear, which is a sweeping west to the east region. If you drew it on a map, it would be a two-inch, slightly downward slash from east to west with a marker.

Himalayan tahrs are herbivores, like all the other goats in the world, and survive mostly on the lush vegetation they find in the lower altitudes of Mount Everest and the Himalayas.

Animals you're almost guaranteed to spot

Mount Everest packs much more than just snow and ice. These are some of the animals you're almost guaranteed to spot when you're summiting the mountain.

Himalayan jumping spiders

jumping spider up close

Mount Everest is home to the highest living animal in the world, the Himalayan jumping spider. If the name alone sends shivers up your spine, imagine sleeping in a down feather sleeping bag at 22,000’ elevation as one of these things creeps into the sleeping bag with you. Just to stay warm, of course.

As spiders go, the Himalayan jumping spider is actually kind of cute, with legs that are small in proportion to its body and two round, large eyes centered in its forehead with the remaining eyes flanking them. Their eyes are nearly perfect in symmetry.

As creatures that live in a snowy universe, they are relatively pale, with tan legs and a white (ish) body. The males are normally a little darker than the females, however. Fortunately, if one does creep into your sleeping bag with you, they are not poisonous, at least not to us.

Their range is from the Himalayas to West Bengal, India, so it's pretty extensive.

Wild yaks

large yak with a bell around its neck

Believe it or not, yaks don’t actually yak anything. They’re very large, bovid creatures that range across the Himalayas, primarily surviving on the lower altitude vegetation. They don’t normally ascend any higher than 5,500’ and no lower than 3,000’.

While they are huge and intimidating in appearance, the wild yak is pretty tame and docile. Like cows, they will politely chew their cud while watching you with a dull expression. It's often difficult to see their eyes through the wavy blonde hair that covers their heads and faces.

So, if they’re looking at you, you might not know it.

Mountain weasels

weasel standing on its back legs

Last but not least, we have the mountain weasel, which is creeping into the red zone on the IUCN’s list. They aren’t there yet. Hopefully, the situation will reverse itself in due time. The mountain weasel is astonishingly cute, with a fair resemblance to a ferret, though perhaps not as long.

Their fur is pale cream to tan in color and smooth up to their pointy faces. Their range is pretty broad as well, with mountain weasels found in South Asia, East Asia, and Central Asia.

In those areas, there is almost nowhere that they cannot live if given an opportunity. They are carnivores, feeding on their Himalayan pika neighbors, voles, muskrats, rabbits, and a variety of squirrels.

Later, skater!

There is plenty of animal life on Mount Everest. So long as you don’t travel too high that is. There is the lone exception of the Himalayan jumping spider, but we tend not to think too much about that one. “Life finds a way” as the saying goes and Mount Everest, especially the lower altitude region, is no exception.