When do tigers leave their mother?

When do tigers leave their mother? Tigers leave their mother conclusively between 17 and 24 months of age. Males leave earlier than females.

Mother and tiger cub
Mother and tiger cub. Photo: Tazi
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By 15 months of age young male adult tigers often leave their mother for several days at a time. They test their independence. Females develop more slowly and stay with their mother for longer. The source of that information is ME Sunquist in The Social Organisation of Tigers in Royal Chitwan National Park 1981. Another source, online, tells me that the dominant cub, usually a male, leaves the family unit within a few months of the cubs establishing a hierarchical order at about 16 months of age. On this source, therefore, tigers leave their mother a little bit later than as stated by ME Sunquist i.e. at 19-months-of-age.

Sunquist recites an example from Chitwan NP. Two tiger siblings, a male and female, each 18 months old, occasionally shared a kill with their mother. They used their mother’s home range.

However, they spent more time together than they did with their mother. The male sibling who weighed 350 pounds started to wonder outside his mother’s home range. Within months he was wandering through an area of 18 mi² and the area was almost exactly that of his father. The sibling’s sister, in contrast, stayed within the boundaries of their mother’s eight-square-mile range for a further six months before dispersing. The word “dispersing” means leaving the natal range to find one’s own home range on complete independence.

Dispersal is a big event in the life of a young tiger. They move into unknown territory and explore it. They search for an area where they can settle and begin reproducing. In a landmark study by Dave Smith, fourteen radio-tagged subadult tigers in Chitwan NP were monitored.

He found that young tigers became independent of their mothers at 17 to 24 months of age. At this time, they continued to hunt in their natal range. It allowed them to hone their hunting skills in a familiar area. After doing this for a few months the young tigers disbursed, usually when they were 18 to 28 months old. That’s when they conclusively left their mother.

I hope this answers the question.

P.S. Chitwan National Park is a protected area in the Terai Lowlands of south-central Nepal.

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