At only 7 to 14 pounds, this bamboo-eating mammal is easy prey for snow leopards -- who go after adults -- and yellow-necked martens, who prefer nesting cubs. Quiet and unassuming, this relative of the giant panda usually disappears when attacked, but he's also quite capable of self-defense when necessary.
When threatened, red pandas will usually try to escape first. They use their sharp claws on their front paws to climb trees. Walking and running on the ground is not in their comfort zone. A tree or rock outcrop will be their first course of action, and they are seasoned escape artists; they have even been known to escape a few zoos!
Those sharp claws are not just used for climbing and shredding bamboo; when cornered, red pandas will use their front claws to defend themselves. To appear larger, they will stand on their back legs, hissing and snarling. Their claws are retractable, like cats'.
While it looks cute and cuddly, don't be fooled -- the red panda's mouth is full of razor sharp teeth. The powerful jaws are made for crushing bamboo -- woe to the creature who has a body part latched onto during a struggle. The front teeth are sharp daggers that can easily cut flesh. Believed to be a former carnivore, the red panda's mouth is an excellent defense mechanism should the need arise.
The red panda communicates with a lot of body language, but it is not afraid to vocalize. When threatened, a predator is warned with a sound reminiscent of huffing and quacking. Red pandas can also warn nearby red pandas of a threat with a special whistle.
Red Panda in tree image by michael luckett from Fotolia.com
Lori Lapierre holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in public relations/communications. For 17 years, she worked for a Fortune 500 company before purchasing a business and starting a family. She is a regular freelancer for "Living Light News," an award-winning national publication. Her past writing experience includes school news reporting, church drama, in-house business articles and a self-published mystery, "Duty Free Murder."