The Siberian tiger is the world's largest cat. More properly known as the Amur tiger and also known as the Manchurian tiger and Korean tiger, it can weigh up to 800 pounds. It is the only tiger that lives in the snow. Television naturalist David Attenborough called the Siberian tiger spectacularly large and said its large size is not unexpected because large size offers advantages in cold temperatures. [Source: Howard Quigley, National Geographic July 1993; Maurice Hornocker, National Geographic, February, 1997; Peter Matthiessen, The Independent, March 5, 2000]
Siberian tigers live in southern Primorsky in the easternmost reaches of Siberia in , where the mixed coniferous and deciduous forest, Matthew Shaer wrote in Smithsonian magazine: “The Amur tiger—also known as the Siberian—is, along with the Bengal, the biggest in the tiger family. Amurs are ocher and russet, with a pink nose, amber eyes and thick black stripes that band their bodies in patterns as unique as any fingerprint. An adult male Amur can measure as long as 11 feet and weigh 450 pounds; the average female is closer to 260. On the kill, an Amur will load its powerful back haunches and slam forward like the hammer of a revolver. To watch a tiger bring down a deer is to see its weight and bulk vanish.” [Source: Matthew Shaer, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2015 \*/]
Siberian tigers are larger than Bengal tigers and twice as large as other Asian tiger species. Its thick coat makes it appear even larger. There around 400 to 500 left in the wild, mainly in the Primorye region of the Russian Far East---the largest continuous tiger population the world---and another 800 to 1,000 in captivity. India has more tigers than Russia but their population is broken up and fragmented.
Book: Tigers in the Snow by Peter Matthiessen (Harvill Press, 2000]
History of Siberian Tigers
Siberian tigers once inhabited all of Korea and much of Manchuria, eastern China and Siberia, perhaps as far east as Mongolia and Lake Baikal. On the banks of the Amur River archeologist have discovered 6,000 year old depictions of tigers carved by the Goldis people. Now the Siberian tiger's range is limited to a 625-mile-long, 75-mile-wide, 60,000-square-mile strip of land in eastern Siberia near Vladivostok along the Pacific Ocean just north of North Korea. The heart of their range is the watershed of the Amur River and its tributary, the Ussuri, which forms the eastern border between Russia and China.
Decades of poaching and logging have ravaged the population of the Siberian tiger. Most Siberian tigers live in the 1,314-square-mile Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve, Ussuriski Reserve, Lazoski reserve and Kedrobaya Pad Reserve in the Far East. There are maybe scattered 20 individuals in northeastern China and North Korea. Five or six Siberia tigers have been counted in the Jilin Province in northern China.
Matthew Shaer wrote in Smithsonian magazine: “ The Amur probably traces its lineage to an ur-species of Panthera tigris, which enters the fossil record about two million years ago. Over the ensuing millennia, nine distinct subspecies of tigers emerged, including the Bengal and the Amur. Each was an apex predator—the pinnacle of its region’s food chain. Unlike the bear, a formidable predator who feasts on both flora and fauna, the tiger is purely carnivorous, with a preference for ungulates such as deer and wild pigs; it will starve before consuming a plant. [Source: Matthew Shaer, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2015 \*/]
“In the not-so-distant past, tigers roamed the shorelines of Bali, the jungles of Indonesia and the lowlands of China. But deforestation, poaching and the ever-widening footprint of man have all taken their toll, and today it is estimated that 93 percent of the ranges once occupied by tigers have been eradicated. There are few wild tigers remaining in China and none in Bali, nor in Korea, where medieval portraits showed a sinuous creature with a noble bearing and a nakedly hungry, open-mouthed leer—an indication of the mixture of dread and admiration humans have long felt for the beast. At the turn of the 20th century, it was estimated that there were 100,000 tigers roaming the wild. Now, according to the World Wildlife Fund, the number is probably much closer to 3,200. \*/
“In a way, the area comprised of Primorsky and neighboring Khabarovsk Province can be said to be the tiger’s last fully wild range. As opposed to India, where tiger preserves are hemmed in on all sides by the thrum of civilization, the Far East is empty and conspicuously frontier-like—a bastion of hunters, loggers, fishermen and miners. Just two million people live in Primorsky Province, on a landmass of nearly 64,000 square miles (about the size of Wisconsin), and much of the population is centered in and around Vladivostok—literally “the ruler of the east”—a grim port city that serves as the eastern terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the home base of WCS Russia.” \*/
Siberian Tigers Numbers
According to World Wildlife Fund, only 450 Siberian tigers remain in the wild. Siberian tiger numbers were estimated at 430 to 470 in a comprehensive 1995-96 study carried out by 650 people. This was twice the number that had been estimated only a few years earlier. There are around 200 Siberian tigers in zoos and circuses. Another thorough count—involving 1,000 people looking for tiger prints in the snow in an area the size of Sri Lanka—was conducted in the winter of 2005.
Matthew Shaer wrote in Smithsonian magazine: “A 1996 census of the Far East’s Amur population, using traditional snow-tracking methods and the expertise of area hunters and rangers, concluded that there were somewhere between 330 and 371 tigers in the region, and maybe 100 cubs.” In 2005, a team led by biologist Dale Miquelle did “a second census, which put the count at between 331 and 393 adults and 97 to 109 cubs. Miquelle believes the numbers may have dipped slightly in the few years afterwards, but he is confident that heightened conservation efforts, a more energetic defense of protected lands and improved law enforcement have now stabilized the population. A census planned for this winter should help clarify the numbers. [Source: Matthew Shaer, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2015 \*/]
The shrinking numbers of Siberian tigers are the result of: 1) loss of habitat caused by the clear cutting of timber and illegal logging and mining; 2) poaching primarily for the folk medicine market in China; and 3) and decline in the numbers of animals that tigers feed on such as sitka deer, elk and wild boar. In the 20th century Siberian tiger numbers were reduced by hunters shooting adults for their skins and capturing cubs for zoos and circuses. In the 1930s Communist party leaders used to bag as many a ten tigers in one hunt. By the 1960s only about 30 of them were left.
Siberian tigers were well protected by the Soviet government. Borders were closed; there was strict gun control and tough penalties for poaching; foreigners were carefully watched, After a determined conservation effort the number of tigers increased to 400 during the mid 1980s. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, as salaries for conservationists disappeared, poaching increased. Their numbers fell back to around 200. In the early 1990s a string of bitter cold winters had an impact on tigers. Fires in eastern Siberia in 1998 linked to El Niño threatened their habitat. In recent years the number of tigers has been rising. Their numbers recovered to over 600 tigers.
Siberian Tiger Characteristics
Siberian tiger average 3.14 meters (10 feet, 4 inches) in length (from nose to tip of tail), stand 1 to 1.1 meters (39 to 42 inches) at the shoulder and weigh 265 to 305 kilograms (585 to 676 pounds). A large male can measure four meters (13 feet) from tail to nose and weighs 362 kilograms (800 pounds). Siberian tigers can jump horizontally as far as 25 feet. Vertically, they can jump over a basketball hoop. When asked how high a tiger can jump, one tiger biologist told John Vaillant, "As high as it needs to."
The difference between the Siberian tiger and the more common Bengal Tiger is that the coat of the Siberian tiger is much thicker. This helps it survive the frigid Siberian winters. Siberian tigers also have more white in the patterns on their head and on their underbelly. Their orange color is less bright than other tiger species.
“Russian tiger experts Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov wrote: “ An adult male can weigh from 320-350 kilograms (705- 770 pounds) and can reach almost three 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length. In strength, it is unrivaled in the Russian Far East. There is a story of a tiger that killed a healthy mare and drug it almost a kilometer. In this case, the tiger was later shot and found to weigh a mere 140 kilograms (309 pounds.). Few tigers die from old age. Crafty traps and bullets, sickness, and fights with brown bears tend to cut short the lives of both young and adult tigers. [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
“One should note that a tiger’s vision is not among its better qualities. Even at a short distance, a tiger mistake you for a stump. It might move up close to leave its mark on what it thinks to be merely a conspicuous log. However, if the stump, dumbstruck with fear, suddenly gives some sign of life, the animal will pick up on this right away. It has a keen ability to distinguish moving objects. The tiger is not afraid of deep snow and biting frosts. The animal has an excellent coat and extremely broad paws. With a sure-footed leap, a tiger can more easily rush up to its prey in deep snow. Nevertheless, heavy snow is a hindrance since it reduces the number of ungulates, decreasing by death and migration the tiger’s already limited amount of prey.”~~
Siberian Tiger Behavior
Siberian tigers sharpen their claws by standing on their hind legs and raking them downwards in the bark of a tree. Siberian tigers have long memories. Offspring of a mother killed by poachers were still agitated as adults whenever they came in close contact with human males. Males sometimes live only six or seven year as they die in competition for mates and territory.
Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote: “Tigers are big lazybones. Or maybe it’s just that tigers are a better judge of the important things in life. They don’t wear themselves out with long migrations. They lay down to rest fairly often. That makes it possible to measure the size of the animal’s imprint, and if the length is more than two meters (6.5 feet), certainly a male. Aside from all this, males mark their territory very actively. They mark anything prominent — burnt stumps, stones sticking out of the snow and even clumps of hay that have fallen to the side of a path. This is a way of communicating with one’s cohorts in the taiga, who are sure to check any prominent objects for signs. They will approach the object and take a “read” of everything that they need to know. An animal’s urine has a strong pre-anal gland scent that contains an abundance of useful information that humans can’t smell. But it is something that a dog can smell. [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
“The tiger is quiet. We have wandered about in its habitat for 25 years, getting close to it on occasion, and in all that time, we have heard a tiger roar fewer than five times. But once is enough, for its thunder chills the blood in one’s veins and leaves an impression that lasts a lifetime. One just wants to instantly teleport away to a comfortable, urban setting. Or to climb a tree and sit up there for a while. Tigers roar when irritated. They roar during fights. When mating, females either meow or snort like a horse. Cubs that have lost their mother are the most vocal; they seem to scream all the time. The tiger trapper Vladimir Kruglov told us that those wishing to discover a tiger save much time and effort by listening at night.~~
“The tiger is considered a dawn-and-dusk. It is most active in the mornings and evenings. During the day, it prefers to lounge around on a cliff somewhere or to hang out on the edge of a ridge where it can get a better look around, where it can listen for what is moving around below. But when the snow is thick and the weather is overcast, tigers are active even during the day.~~
“Young who must follow in their mother’s tracks experience certain difficulties: their stride is shorter than their mother’s and so they have to occasionally jump, and this is fatiguing. Tigers don’t climb trees. An adult tiger will sometimes try to scramble up an inclined tree. Cubs are a different matter. They gladly walk along the trunks of tree that has fallen over, often in an attempt to avoid dogs and other threats.~~
“Such are the ways of the tiger. It spends its entire life moving around and resting near the prey that it kills. No joys or distractions. A tiger is a serious and elusive animal. You don’t see it; you don’t hear it: is it there or isn’t it? The tiger is a powerful animal, but one that is defenseless in the face of modern technological progress.~~
Siberian Tiger Territory
Siberian tigers can range over 400 square miles. Male Siberian tigers generally range across an area of 150 to 225 square miles. Females range cover a slightly smaller area. Tigers grimace when they sniff scents found in their territory. Known as flehmen behavior, the facial movement helps expose the scent to the sensory-cell-covered vomeronasal organ behind the palate. This behavior is usually seen in areas where other cats have sprayed their scent.
Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote: “A tiger won’t live just anywhere. Each animal has a home range where it perpetually makes its rounds. The size of the range depends upon the abundance of prey and can vary from 200 to 500 kilometers (125-310 miles). For some males, the range is even larger. The animal is seldom in a rush. A move of 20-30 kilometers (12.5-19 miles) in the course of a winter’s night is typical. If game is present, the predator will spend several days on a kill. That is, of course, if no one bothers the tiger and if there is not an urge to move on. Tigers sometimes make kills and may not consume the entire kill. [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
“Sometimes a tiger will move 70-100 kilometers (45-63 miles) from its home range. Tigers may patrol home ranges to mark territorial boundaries to exclude adjacent tigers, to look for a mate, or perhaps in search of a territory with better pickings. The allegation that a tiger is wasteful, that it kills more than it can eat, is extremely controversial. Scientists who have tracked tigers for years believe that the animal will always return to a kill, no matter how many days have passed. It’s another thing entirely if a human comes upon a tiger’s kill, stamping around out of curiosity or cutting off a piece to feed the dogs. In this situation the tiger will certainly abandon his kill, passing by at a distance, cursing to himself as he moves away from danger. ~~
Siberian Tiger Mating
Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote: “Only female tigers with cubs construct up dens. Even so, comfort is not a big deal. Her main concern is that nothing is dripping from above. As for bedding, some dry leaves or grass are scattered around the den in the best of cases, and most often, the litter from a wild boar’s rest site does the trick. A tiger will look for a ready-made roof: under a stump. Or a hanging cliff, in a shallow cave, and as a rule, beneath a crest or on a southern slope. [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
“The male tiger is a poor and antisocial family man. He is itinerant and is a solo wanderer. Only during the mating period, which usually occurs in January and February, are the animals a bit more gregarious. Males will often brutally fight for the heart of a woman. The gestation period is 95-107 days. A female needs three and a half-years to reach the age when she can start supplementing the species. A male needs even longer - around four years.~~
“Controversy surrounds the timing of the mating period, and young cubs are discovered at various times of the year. For instance, in December 1993, not far from the headquarters of the Kutuzovskii hunting society, a hunter happened upon a den set up in some downed trees; it contained two young cubs. Their eyes were hardly open, a sign that they were fewer than ten days old. Their mother was nearby, but she didn’t leap to their defense. Frightened by a shot, she ran away and never returned. Both tiger cubs died of starvation and cold on the next day.~~
“In this case, pregnancy must have occurred in August or September. Perhaps the female simply didn’t get a chance to mate in the winter — a problem often faced by the younger breeding-age tigers. Possibly, this tiger’s mating period just got stretched out over a long period. Perhaps the animal acquired some funny habits after living side by side with humans for too long. In general, the sex life of a tiger is less well studied than that of mice. This is understandable, for the tiger is one kind of animal in the zoo and another entirely in the wild. One does not get much of a read by just looking at tiger tracks, especially in summer.~~
Siberian Tiger Cubs and Their Mothers
About 30 percent of Siberian tiger young die. Mothers sometimes abandon their cubs. Young tigers play and romp in the snow to sharpen their hunting skills and create sibling bonds. Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote: “Young tigers don’t grow proportionally and their paw sizes, especially for males, can be larger than their mother’s tracks. A certain logic operates here: a child will fall through the snow less often, and it will save its strength so as not to fall behind when moving long distances with its mother. The observant tracker takes into account this subtle detail to get an accurate read of the animal. The stride of a cub is shorter and the cub does not stick in the snow quite the same way as an adult animal does.~~
“Tigers cut their milk teeth two weeks after birth. At first their mother feeds them only milk, but when the cubs have gained a bit of strength, she takes them along to kills not far from the den; only in rare cases does she drag a red Manchurian deer or a wild boar back to the cubs. As the cubs grow, they begin to range farther and farther afield with their mother, moving from one kill to the next. Only they don’t take part in the hunt. When looking for new prey, the mother tiger abandons her cubs. And as they grow older, they are left alone for increasingly longer period of time. A female tiger might leave a six-month-old cub alone for two or three days, and a yearling for up to two weeks. [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
“The wildlife biologist Viktor Egorushin told us an interesting story about one such tiger. The tiger and her liter of four cubs unexpectedly came upon some hunters and then, in great leaps, bounded away in fear. Only the cubs couldn’t keep up with their mother, and they hid in a crevice. They sat there for ten days! Concerned with their fate, the wildlife personnel from the Sobolevskii Hunting Society brought them meat and threw into the opening of the pit. But the animals emitted no signs of life. Only on the tenth day did the female tiger return! No one knows why she returned on that day — did she plan it that way, or did her conscience suddenly bother her? How she announced her appearance to her cubs is also a mystery; she never got up close to the crevice. But the cubs came out to greet their mother and off they went together to continue their travels. True, only three of them came out of the crevice. Did they eat the fourth brother or sister? Maybe the little thing just wasn’t able to survive, and starved to death.~~
“This isn’t the usual way a female tiger will teach her cubs independence. Everything depends on the abundance of prey; if there is food around, she won’t abandon her cubs. She nurses them for six months and can’t leave them alone for long periods of time. As the litter’s food demands increase, she must worry about continuing to feed them.~~
“The cubs gradually begin to learn the subtleties of the trade. If their mother is delayed, they hunt smaller prey such a musk deer, hares and piglets the best way they can. Tigers don’t hunt in packs, the way wolves do. That is perhaps why tiger cubs are reared so long — for almost three years these overgrown, partially trained cubs, already the size of their mother, persistently follow in her tracks.~~
“Then, the family breaks up and each member begins worrying only about itself. A tiger lives 40-50 years, but according to our estimates, generation time is 15-20 years, if not shorter, in the wild. Natural losses are great for a number of reasons: tigers die from sickness, from hunting injuries, from drownings and in cunning traps. And they become victims of poachers’ bullets. They also kill one another; such cases are also documented but relatively rare and are surely not a significant cause of population decline.~~
Siberian Tiger Cubs and Cannibalistic Males
Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote: “In the 1997-98 winter, in the Khor River watershed alone, the bodies of cubs from three litters were discovered. All had been killed and eaten by males. The mother of two cubs had just left her six month-old cubs and the “father” followed in her tracks and caught the cubs. He had time to eat half of his easy prey before hunters spooked him. The female tiger returned in a day, and for several days afterwards her howl could be heard everywhere.~~
“In another instance, a male killed a cub almost in view of its mother. Only there weren’t any traces of a fight where the tussle took place. One might be surprised at the indifference displayed at the death of her only offspring. “In yet another instance, a female tiger acted much differently, and so fearlessly defended her two young cubs that she inflicted mortal wounds on the cannibal: the tendons on the legs were ripped and hunters found him dying. Incidents of cannibalism increase in frequency when there is little to eat in the forest but in intact native ecosystems cannibalism generally does not occur at significant rates. ~~
“This is not a rarity among large mammals. For example, a bear cub’s most feared enemy is a male from a different family. The same is probably the case with tigers; cannibals don’t eat their own offspring! But one way or the other, this is a sad fact that does nothing to help increase tiger numbers. It is yet another reason why the taiga is not full of tigers, this despite the fact that a litter many contain as many as five kittens. True, such fertility is rare, and even the appearance of four cubs occurs only once in a while. But when it does occur, it is usual for two or three of the cubs to survive until their third birthday. Besides, a female tiger doesn’t breed while raising her cubs, and this is another reason why she gives birth only once every two or three years.” ~~
Siberian Tiger Prey
Siberian tigers need about five kilograms of meat a day but often eat in a feast–or-famine kind of way in which they go many days without eating anything. They feed primarily on goral, sitka deer, red Manchurian deer, elk, red deer and wild boar. They are large and strong enough to prey on elk. Tigers have been observed hunting bear. Other animals sense tigers in the winter by the crunching noise from the snow. Siberian stone pine produces a favorite food of wild boars, which in turn are a favorite food of Siberian tigers. In some places these trees have all been cut down, depriving the boars and tigers of food.
Yury Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote:“In strength, it is unrivaled in the Russian Far East. There is a story of a tiger that killed a healthy mare and drug it almost a kilometer. In this case, the tiger was later shot and found to weigh a mere 140 kilograms (309 pounds.). [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
Siberian Tigers on the Hunt
Siberian tigers like to hunt at night. They come alive in the winter and often hunt by waiting patiently in the brush and ambushing their prey along an animal track or near a river. They Siberian tigers like to attack their prey from behind. Describing a tiger attack along a river, Peter Matthiessen wrote in the New Yorker: "From the evidence in the snow we were able to reconstruct what happened. The fore prints came together where the elk stopped short, in a place of elms and cottonwoods, some seventy yards from the crouched tiger. Perhaps the elk listened, sniffed, and trembled for a moment, big dark eyes round."
“From this taut point, it suddenly sprang sideways, attaining the far bank in one scared bound, as the tiger launched herself from hiding and cut across her quarry's route in ten-foot leaps, leaving silent round explosions in the snow. Shooting through the dark riverine trees like a tongue of fire, she overtook the big deer and hauled it down in a wood of birch and poplar about thirty-seven yards.".from where she started. Striking from behind, she'd grasped the throat, to suffocate her prey, for there was little blood---only the arcs of a bony elk leg sweeping weakly on the surface of the snow, and a sad last spasm of the creature's urine...Of the elk, all that remained were the legs, the head and the stiff, course hide, which are usually abandoned by the tiger. There was no meat left on the twisted carcass. They eyes were frozen to blue ice, too hard even for ravens."
Yury Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote: “A tiger hunts large animals: They hunt these with catlike precision. A tiger won’t drive an animal the way a wolf does. And it won’t track an animal to a point of exhaustion the way a bear does. A tiger will rarely follow tracks. Hearing is its most acute sense; it assures the tiger’s hunting success. The animal’s superb hearing is an aid in stalking; it helps the tiger determine the direction of the prey’s movement, making it possible to set up an ambush or to hide off to the side. A tiger can detect wind direction, and sets up his ambush so as to not be sensed by its prey. [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
“A tiger leaps onto the victim’s neck at a short distance. All it takes is several lunging leaps each spanning five to seven meters (16.5-23 feet) is all that is needed. The tiger doesn’t “break the back with a blow like a cannon shot,” as is sometimes reported in the literature. All the researchers studying tiger kills point to a single cause of death: a bite through the neck vertebrae at the base of the skull. The predator can even kill bears this way. It deftly makes its approach and with a single bite, the victim is rendered motionless. Do what you will, the victim is not going to recover. The power of the jaw is unimaginable — canine teeth grow to six centimeters (2.4 inches) in length. ~~
Stories of tigers hypnotizing their game are a bit exaggerated or are utterly false. And although there is something to the magic of a cat’s green eyes, the hypnosis is explained by how quickly it moves in for the attack. Even someone with a great deal of experience in the taiga gets spooked when sensing the presence of a tiger. Your head begins to nervously twitch. You suddenly remember the rifle thrown over your shoulder. You stare at suspicious objects. Nothing seems to be the matter, yet still, you loose your cool: is that a wild animal staring at you from out behind that spruce? ~~
Wolves and Bears in Siberian Tiger Country
Dunishenko and Kulikov wrote: "Earlier the Krai’s reindeer industry used every means possible to fight wolves, from poisoning them to shooting them from helicopters. Huge amounts of money were spent on this. There were also seminars, competitions for the best wolf hunter, and other measures taken to limit wolf numbers. But the efforts fell far short of the intended results. Now almost no effort is being made to deal with wolves. They have moved in like a flood, from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the Urals, where there are reports of huge numbers of wolves the likes of which have not been seen since the Second World War. [Source: “The Amur Tiger” by Yury Dunishenko and Alexander Kulikov, The Wildlife Foundation, 1999 ~~]
“And this is not just happening in the north where conditions are favorable for wolves (a taiga without people, domestic reindeer on the loose). Once the tiger retreated a bit, the gray bandits were immediately observed in traditional tiger habitat in the Matai, Sidime, Durmin and Khor River watersheds. Yet the tiger can deal with the wolves without too much of an effort. So it’s better to let the tiger eat its share of the common pie if we don’t want wolves to gobble up everything themselves. ~~
"Predators never destroy their prey populations, and a certain balance is always maintained. Tigers are dependent upon their prey, and so tiger numbers will increase and decrease in direct relation to the number of prey. Predators don’t die of ennui. Offspring decrease in number as a result of starvation, young die more often, and adults begin to migrate more extensively. Tigers take on domestic animals and more and more often fall victim to a bullet. Such rises dips in the predator populations take longer than a year to happen, but over the years have certainly borne witness to the general trends. Our elders still remember how much damage wolves caused after the war. But if we have some clarity on wolves, the situation with brown bears is not so clear. The brown bear is mostly an herbivore, and its problem is that our winters are long.
"If a bear can’t store up enough fat for five long winter months, it might as well not bother to hibernate. You can’t just suck nourishment out of your paw! When the taiga was wild and Korean pine forests and walnut groves provided stable harvests, bears encountered fewer problems. Now a bear is sometimes forced, before sacking out, and during the spring famine, to go for higher calorie victims. And so it begins to sneak up on wild boar, red Manchurian deer, and elk; it attacks the helpless newborns. ~~
"What results is a noticeable, heightened competition with the tiger for food. Adults of both species are equal in strength. We heard one story about how a large “brown,” having taken on a wild board and covered it with scat and brushwood to make some “stewed boar, bear style,” suddenly got paid a visit by a hungry tiger. Oh how much blood got shed! The owner of the kill died from terrible wounds and the disfigured tiger, moving off like a drunk, didn’t even bother with the fresh spoils of the kill. Snow covered the tiger’s tracks, and the king of the jungle was never seen again in those lands. Apparently, both animals finished their fight in the world beyond. There is another story of a brown bear that went after two tiger cubs left by their mother near a red Manchurian deer that she had killed. When she returned after several days, the female tiger found only clumps of fur.” ~~
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated May 2016