Unique footage using 40 hidden cameras has captured an Amur leopard and an Amur tiger walking along the same track in search of prey. They say that one is covering the tracks of the other. However, the Amur leopard is going to avoid a confrontation with the tiger. They will use what I call timeshare methods. Their home ranges overlap but they occupy the common areas at different times.
I don’t have the footage but some nice stills from Sergey Gorshkov. He is a great wildlife photographer. The Amur (Siberian) tiger is the world’s largest cat. The Amur leopard is also a very big leopard. Both these cat species are bigger than their counterparts in the south because living in colder climates for eons results in larger animals as they lose less body heat due to surface area and mass ratios.
These are slightly smaller than the originals. Please click on them to see larger versions if you wish.
Apparently, David Attenborough, remarked that it was extraordinary to get two big cats walking the same paths. I’m not going to argue with him!
However, it is not uncommon for leopards and tigers to live in the same area (sympatric lifestyles).
They probably feed on similar prey species although I would expect competition to be small between the two. Leopards generally feed on a wider variety of prey than tigers. Many of their animals are smaller than tiger prey animals. Or they feed on the young of prey animal adults.
However, studies have suggested that leopards don’t alter their targeted prey animals because tigers are present where they live. It appears that they simply eat slightly different prey animals.
Although they walk along the same track and one walks in the footsteps of the other in the Far East of Russia in sub-zero temperatures, the Amur leopard will, as mentioned, avoid the tiger and ensure that they have a means of escape.
Both leopards and tigers use areas of dense cover as resting places during the daytime.
The video footage is remarkable partly for the fact that it is so difficult to film under such hostile conditions. The Frozen Planet II episode is called Frozen Lands.
It took them two years to film a Siberian tiger covering the tracks of an Amur leopard. It was so cold that the cabling snapped. The temperatures were -35°C.
The filmmakers used what appears to be customised software to trigger the cameras at a distance so as not to disturb the tiger and leopard.
They also had to build customised camera units able to work under sub-zero winter conditions. These cameras were left out for months on end.
For the sake of completeness, the huge Siberian tiger in the photograph above is not hugging a tree but scent marking the tree by rubbing his cheeks against it. He is marking his home range out and I suspect that this tree is on the boundary of a place that he calls his territory. I suspect, too, that the Amur leopard will come across this scent and recognise that a Siberian tiger has been here and therefore he can arrange the timeshare properly and avoid the tiger.
Do tigers kill bears? Yes, tigers do kill bears but it will happen quite rarely although there is conflicting information on the frequency of bear/tiger encounters. I’m going to quote a section of the best book on wild cats1, which provides reliable information in answering the question in the title. I have added information from many other sources and applied common sense. Do tigers prey on bears? Yes, but rarely and when pushed to do so because of a scarcity of usual prey animals (see below). There are good reasons why on occasions tigers might avoid bears and vice versa.
“Feeding ecology: tigers will eat almost anything they can catch, from frogs to elephant calves. The menu includes birds, fish, mice, locusts, porcupines, moose, and monkeys but these animals generally form an insignificant part of the tiger’s diet.
There are also records of tigers killing and eating other carnivores, such as bears, leopards, lynx, wolves, and foxes but this is not a common occurrence either.”
It is the Siberian tiger which is more likely to come into contact with bears to attack and kill them (I would argue). Apparently, between 1944 and 1959, 32 cases of Siberian tigers attacking brown and Asian black bears were recorded in the Russian Far East, the home of the Siberian tiger. Bengal tigers also come into contact with bears in places such as the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, India.
Brown bears live in the open more than Asian black bears and are not able to climb trees and therefore they are attacked more readily by Siberian tigers.
The Wikipedia authors also state that tigers can tackle bears larger than themselves. They do so through their ambushing technique; jumping on the bear from an elevated position. It is said that tigers mainly feed on the fat deposits of the bear on the back groin and hams.
Siberian or Amur tigers do prey on adult brown bears and young bears but the percentages are low: 1.4% of the Siberian tiger’s annual diet is of Ussuri brown bears while 0.7% of their diet is made up of the smaller Asian black bear.
It is said that bears sometimes follow tiger tracks so that they can scavenge from tiger kills and to prey on tigers themselves. Although I am sure bears normally avoid tigers. Bears sometimes steal tiger kills and therefore the tiger’s presence is not altogether a bad thing for the bear.
It appears that an interesting study took place in the Sikhote-Alin region of Russia’s Far East (a protected area) in which 44 direct confrontations between bears and tigers were recorded. During these confrontations bears were killed 22 times and tigers 12 times. It could be said, therefore, that tigers in general win a tiger versus bear fight.
A report dated 1973 records the killing of tigers (including adult males) by brown bears. In all cases the bears ate the tiger.
I cannot vouch for the information provided on Wikipedia but the authors do refer to references in all cases. It is quite clear that the answer to the question, “do tigers kill bears?” is an emphatic, Yes. And encounters are not that rare in the Far East of Russia, judging by the records, which is where you will find Siberian tigers. Siberian tigers are the largest subspecies of tiger and the largest cat in the world.
I feel I need to add a postscript to this page about three years later. Although there are records as mentioned above of Siberian tigers killing bears and indeed Bengal tigers killing bears, there are easier prey animals for tigers to kill. Therefore, I would suggest that bears are not a priority. They are de-prioritised and sometimes they may be a last resort. This is because of the dangers of killing a very large animal which can inflict serious injury on a tiger. A seriously injured tiger may no longer be able to hunt which will lead to starvation.
There is also the issue of the age of the tiger and whether they are fit. And the age and health of the bear. What I’m pointing to is that an infirm or old tiger won’t attack a bear in my view. And often tigers will attack young bears and smaller females for obvious reasons.
It should also be said that in the Russian Far East wild pigs and red deer form the bulk of the tiger’s diet. Together they constitute 60 to 84% of tiger kills. And when they are short of normal prey animals during for example severe winters tigers will even go into remote villages to kill dogs. The point, there, is that when desperate for prey they will go for domestic stock such as cows and horses and domestic animals rather, perhaps, then attacking a bear.
Huge sloth bear kills Bengal tiger?
The Times of India reports on April 17, 2019 the possible killing of a Bengal tiger by a large sloth bear. They found a dead tiger in a waterhole in Dudhwa National Park. The officials suspected that a sloth bear was the killer. Photographs of a huge sloth bear were picked up by camera traps about 150 m from the spot where the tiger was killed. The bear had a few scratches on its face but was moving without difficulty.
The tiger had neck and head injuries consistent with an attack by a bear. The autopsy report stated that the tiger was killed by a large carnivore but did not specify the predator.
If they are correct, bears that are not the largest species can kill tigers. This reinforces my view that tigers have to be desperate to attack a bear as a prey animal. In this instance the bear and tiger met at a watering hole and it appears that the bear defended their position. The fight was thrust upon them. The male tiger was called Matkasur and was therefore known to the authorities.
Sergey Aramilev, a biologist and the head of the Amur Tiger Center knows a bit about tigers killing bears. He makes it clear that tigers do kill bear sometimes. He even says that tigers sometimes bite through the tree trunk of a soft tree less than 20 cm in diameter to fell the tree in which a bear might have escaped.
He also states that if a large male bear fights a tigress or a small male tiger the fight will be 50-50. The outcome may even favour the bear. But if they are equally matched in terms of being fit and adult and males then he suggests that most often the Tiger will win. He says it’s because tigers are accustomed to killing. Tigers only eat meat and bears are omnivores. Tigers have developed better hunting skills. It knows where to bite to kill its victim. Bears normally scavenge and are mainly vegetarian and do not hunt regularly. These factors favour the tiger under appropriate circumstances as mentioned.
The Siberian tiger (Amur tiger) distribution includes the northeastern tip of China at my last reckoning. Therefore historically Siberian tigers are in China. However, there is an interesting story in The Times newspaper today (Didi Tang), Tuesday, April 27, 2021, about a Siberian tiger that went on the rampage in a Chinese village. They are not sure if the tiger had crossed the border between China and Russia because most Siberian tigers live in Russia in the far east north of Vladivostok (see map below).
But it is perfectly plausible to suppose that they occasionally cross the border and, in this instance, a wild Siberian tiger has been captured in China for the first time after it walked into a village called Linhu in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang.
It was first spotted near the village and a crowd gathered to see the it. It was dozing next to an electricity transformer. A car aroused it whereupon it raced into the village. The police evacuated the village and there was a three-hour stand-off. It walked down the road followed by a police car. It attacked a passing vehicle and smashed a window as the driver and passenger tried to flee.
A drone was used to track the tiger. It was spotted striding through a field where it knocked over a farmhand, Li Chunxiang, giving her minor injuries. She said that she was dumbfounded! An understatement.
Siberian tiger range – map prepared around 2011
The tiger was cornered at 6 PM, about 12 hours after it was spotted and tranquilized with darts. They have named the tiger Wandashan No 1 after a local mountain. It will be kept for 45 days to enable scientists to collect DNA and analyse its unique pattern of stripes. This will help them decide whether the tiger came across the Russia-China border. It weighs 200 kg.
China has built a tiger monitoring system, recording about 20 cubs in the past five years. They believe that this encounter is a sign of success. They like to live in thick forests, shrubbery and wild grassland. They can range over 60 mi² to look for food.
A research study by the scientists of Cornell Wildlife Health Center, in association with others e.g. Dr. Sarah Cleaveland of the University of Glasgow, have concluded that even a low rate of vaccination at two Siberian tigers per year within a small population can reduce the tigers’ risk of extinction significantly “at a cost of only US$30,000 per year or less if vaccines are given opportunistically when tigers are captured for routine radio collaring studies”.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) causes a serious illness in dogs but it is also a viral disease that affects a wide variety of mammals including coyotes, foxes, wolves, ferrets and big cats such as the tiger, and indeed a variety of other species.
Vaccination of tigers
The researchers decided that the only practical strategy to protect Amur tigers in the Russian Far East was to vaccinate them during standard collaring processes (for example) rather than trying to vaccinate dogs and other species such as martens, badgers and raccoon dogs as it was decided to be impractical as there are no oral vaccines that could be distributed to these animals through baited food.
It seems that the researchers were forced into deciding to vaccinate tigers albeit at a minimal level which they decided was sufficient to provide enough protection to ensure the survival of the species. The researchers concluded that tigers vaccinated in captivity were able to neutralise the strain of CDV that they had detected in the wild. Through a computer model they decided that a low rate of vaccination at two tigers per year could reduce the risk of extinction of this rare species of tiger all of which are living in the Far East of Russia to the northeast and southwest of Vladivostok and the northeast of China. The map below, which I made years ago, may help in showing you where this tiger lives.
Map showing where Amur (Siberian) tiger lives
Status of the Siberian tiger in the wild
In 2002, Fiona Sunquist writing in Wild Cats of the World said that this subspecies of tiger was in jeopardy. In the early 1940s the population was estimated to be 30 individuals. The authorities banned hunting of the Amur tiger in 1952. Numbers steadily increased. In 1971 he tiger census found that there were approximately 130 Siberian tigers left in the Russian Far East. By 1985 the numbers had increased to an estimated 430. In 1996 a fresh estimate concluded that there were between 350 and 450 Siberian tigers remaining in the wild.
It is said that the Siberian tiger is also distributed in north-eastern China where there is a small population. The source of the material for the above article states that there are fewer than 550 Siberian tigers at the date of this post. They do not tell me where that figure comes from. The specialist in this area (IUCN Red List) are asleep again. They say that on the basis of a 2005 census there are an estimated 360 Siberian tigers in the wild and they re-quote that figure in 2011. So the most recent data we have from the specialists is from 2011 based on 2005 numbers. Russia has made a concerted effort to protect this most precious of animals in their country and therefore I would hope and expect the numbers to be stable.
Tigers communicate with a combination of vocalisations, scent marks and visual signals. Each tiger hunts alone but they live within a social system and their system is maintained through communication.
An expert on tiger vocalisations is Gustav Peters. His work is referred to by Mel and Fiona Sunquist in their masterwork Wild Cats of the World. The tiger has a range of vocalisations including: coughing snarl, hiss, spit, meow, moan, grunt, snarl, growl, prusten and their main call.
The coughing snarl is a loud, harsh and short call with the teeth bared and the mouth open. It is used when attacking prey.
It is also said that tigers make a sound similar to the alarm call of the sambar deer which is a “pooking” sound. The sambar deer is one of the tiger’s main prey animals. It is believed by another scientist, Schaller, that the sound is made to advertise the tiger’s presence and to avoid sudden encounters.
Infrequently, tigers also make a sound described as a “woof”. They can be delivered in a short explosive way if they are surprised or startled and they also make the sound when they are hit by a tranquilizing dart.
Although it is said that tigers are not technically roaring cats, they do roar as we all know. This is a call which carries at least three kilometres. When do tigers roar? In a variety of contexts and circumstances. The tiger might raw before mating, after killing a large animal, during mating and when a female is beckoning her young in the words of Fiona Sunquist.
The roar is made as a form of long-distance communication and therefore it advertises the animal’s presence and location. How it is responded to depends upon the message.
Female tigers advertise their receptiveness to sex with roaring. It is used to summon a male.
Moaning is a form of subdued roar. It is often made when walking along with head down. It is audible over a distance of less than 400 metres.
Close range vocalisations when greeting and reassuring or appeasing another include grunts and prustens. The prusten is a staccato popping sound. It is audible at close range and is part of a tiger’s greeting. A tiger might make this sound towards their young in order to make contact and maintain contact with them and to give instructions. The sounds are also made during courtship and mating.
Visual signals are made by the tiger’s facial markings. This applies to close range communication. The experts aren’t sure but it is possible that tigers recognise other tigers through their stripes and marks on the face and body which are unique to each tiger. They might use these aspects of each other’s appearance together with scent.
The back of a tiger’s ear flaps (pinnae) are marked with a clear white spot. During aggressive interactions the ears point backwards and the white spots are visible to the cat opposite. The signal is that the tiger is aggressive. The white spots may also provide a signal to cubs to follow their parents in difficult vegetation and dark conditions.
Tigers also scrap the ground with their claws to leave a visual signal (see below).
Scent marking is probably the most important form of communication for tigers. It is called “marking fluid”. Experts believe that cubs do not produce it. It is mixed with urine and sprayed backwards onto upright objects. Marking fluid may also be deposited on to faeces via the anal glands. As is typical for all wild cats, tigers rub their cheeks and head on objects which have already been sprayed to enhance the scent message. Tigers also scrape the ground with a claws to provide a visual signal in the same area.
Scent marking is used to mark out territory as it is deposited along a network of normally use routes indicated to other tigers that the place is occupied. Other tigers pick up the scent and do not stay long in that area. Non-territory holders do not scent mark in the same way that territory holders do. Tigers also scent mark more intensively when they are establishing a territory.
Boundaries are scent marked more intensively than interiors. The most intensive marking takes place where “major trails intersect or run along a mutual boundary”.
Females mark at close intervals and more often than males. To give an example of how a female tiger marks territory, a three year old in Chitwan sprayed 49 trees per month having visited a 500 metre stretch of boundary eight times per month over a four-month period.
Scent marking also bring males and females together. For the female tiger scent marking increases to a maximum just prior to oestrus it then declines during and after oestrus.
Scent marking must be placed at conspicuous places and the scent must be topped up. If the urine is deposited at a higher level the scent covers a wider range than when deposited on the ground. Typically tree trunks are targeted. Leaning trees and rock overhangs are favourites. The rate of depositing sent depends upon the individual and the circumstances. Some odours may serve a variety of social functions and tigers are quite social in communicating through the odour of their scent combined with visual signals and their vocalisations mentioned.
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A tiger’s paw is enormous! The enormous size is made clear when you compare it with the size of a male human hand as this picture does.
The Siberian tiger is the biggest species of tiger and therefore their paws should also be the biggest. I’m told that the width of the paw of a bulky male Siberian tiger is about 16 centimetres across. A medium-sized male Siberian tiger has a forepaw approximately 14 centimetres across. And a female Siberian tiger may have a paw which is about 10-12 centimetres across.
The numerical data is less enlightening then the visual. I am referring to the image which I think is remarkable. The best book on the wild cat species, Wild Cats of the World, does not provide specific information as to the size of the tiger’s paw. I can’t, therefore, provide you with another source, the best source in my view. However, the authors of Wild Cats of the World, Mel and Fiona Sunquist, describe tigers as “powerful, burly animals, well-equipped to single-handedly capture and subdue large prey”.
They also say that the “massive forelimbs are ideal for grappling with prey while holding onto it with the long, retractable claws of the broad forepaws”.
The tiger is built for strength not speed although this cat can run at a good pace. But because it’s body is so heavy, the final dash to kill prey is quite short. It has to be if it is to succeed. It is around 30 metres (33 yards) which is about the maximum it can achieve at top speed. The tiger uses the suffocating bite at the prey’s throat. They knock prey down with their powerful forelegs and grab prey with the sharp and massive claws of their huge front feet. The size of their paws helps to explain why they are so successful at the killing process.
Source of numerical data: biologist and wild game expert Alexander Batalov in reference to Amur tigers.
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There are three main types of variation in tiger appearance: body size, striping patterns and the coloration of the skin and skull characteristics. This post is about tiger stripes.
The ground colour of tigers’s skins (pelages) varies from dark red to pale yellow. It reflects their habitat and the humidity of the area where they live. Darker coloured tigers are found in the tropical rainforest of south-east Asia and the Sunda Islands. The Amur tiger (in Siberia, Russia) is often pale especially when in the winter coat. There is, however, variation within populations. In other words, Amur tigers can have a similar darkness of colouration to the darker coloured tigers of Southeast Asia and vice versa.
The coloration of the stripes may vary too. Amur tigers have dark brown stripes. However, tigers in the north where there are longer periods of daylight in the summer months may have lighter stripes because of fading of the pigment (melanin) in the hair strands which create the stripes. Black stripes may fade to brown and the darker ground colours may become paler during the year.
Moulting (shedding fur) Amur tigers in a breeding centre near Harbin, China had black stripes on their new darker summer coat. This contrasted with the brown stripes of their paler winter coat.
Tiger subspecies can be characterised on the basis of their striping patterns. For example, in 1981, a scientist, Mazak, was able to distinguish Sunda Island tigers because of the higher frequency of their stripes which often end in a line of spots. Whereas Sumatran tigers are normally described as having thicker stripes than tigers from Java. Amur tigers are said to have thinner stripes than Bengal tigers. That said, in a study of 1992 by Hepter and Sludskii it was found that Amur and Caspain tigers (now extinct) “displayed a wide variety of striping patterns and ground colour variations”.
In a tiger collection in the Natural History Museum, London and the National Museums of Scotland one scientist placed scores against the coloration and striping patterns of the tiger skins reflecting seven characteristics.
Each characteristic was given a score of either one or three as shown in the table above with an intermediate character state of 2 if necessary. A score of three means the skin was light and the stripes thin. Scores of one reflect dark skins with thick abundance stripes. For each skin the character scores were totaled to give a specimen score. You can see from the table that the single Siberian tiger (altaica) has a high score indicating a light coloured skin with thin striping while the Bengal tiger (tigris tigris) has a darker pelage and thick, abundant stripes.
The results indicated a bigger range of tiger stripes and colouring between subspecies that is normally described. Sunda tigers normally have low scores (dark, well-striped skins) while Indian tigers (Bengal tigers) have very variable scores.
The table below shows a number of stripes on the mid-flank of tiger pelages
in the collection of the Natural History Museum, London and from photographs in Mazak (1996).
The chart shows that the species of tiger with the lowest number of stripes is the Siberian tiger while the tiger with the largest number of stripes is the Javan tiger (sondaica) and the Bali tiger (balica). Both of these species of tiger are extinct. The Siberian Tiger and the Bengal Tiger are both extant (i.e. currently living in the wild albeit in small numbers).
THE INFORMATION COMES FROM RIDING THE TIGER ISBN 0-521-64835-1
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