Size: Length 5 to 10 ft., 500 to 800 lbs.
Characteristics: Nocturnal, solitary.
Offspring: 2 to 6 cubs every 2 to 3 years.
· There are more Siberian tigers in captivity than in the wild.
· The Siberian tiger has retractable claws like a house cat.
· In 1998, there were only 350 to 400 Siberian tigers living in the wild.
· Three tiger subspecies have become extinct since 1936, leaving only 5 subspecies today.
· Tigers symbolize power and respect and are not only a symbol of royalty, but were the symbol of the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
· A boy born in the Chinese calendar’s Year of the Tiger is believed to have power to ward off evil.
· No two tigers have the same stripe-pattern.
At the beginning of the 19th century, more than 100,000 tigers lived in the wilds of Asia and Europe. Hunting and encroachment on their territories by humans have caused these numbers to decline until only a few hundred remain in the wild. Tigers hunt by stalking, and need to eat hoofed animals such as deer and wild pigs to remain healthy, although crocodiles, fish, birds, leopards and bears round out their diet. Tigers hunt alone, creeping up on their prey until they’re 30 to 80 feet away, then pouncing and killing it with a bite to the neck or by holding its throat until it strangles. Tigers are only successful in one or two attempts of every twenty, so they need to spend a good portion of the day hunting. When a tiger successfully catches prey, he’ll drag it to a safe place and cover it up, returning to eat from it for several days. Tigers can eat more than 40 pounds of food in one sitting, and then not eat again for several days. They’re good swimmers and will lie in water to keep cool during hot weather. Tigers have been known to attack people and once they’ve developed a taste for human meat, will often return to a village for more. It is against the law to kill or shoot a tiger, so the villagers have to notify the proper authorities and wait for the government to come in and catch and tranquilize the tiger. However, there are several different techniques people use to fend off tigers. One way is to fit a human dummy with electrical wires that give off a shock when touched, hopefully training the tiger to leave humans alone. As well, people will wear a mask with a human face on the back of their heads. Tigers always attack from behind, so this is supposed to confuse them and/or scare them off, but it’s not a foolproof method because tigers are intelligent creatures and often see through this ruse.
Male tigers live alone and their territory may be up to 400 square miles or more, depending on the accessibility of hoofed prey. Females have smaller territories and several may live within the range of one male. Both females and males mark their territories with urine and droppings, as well as scratch marks on trees. Because they stalk rather than outrun their prey, tigers live in forests where they benefit from the cover of trees. In the winter, a tiger’s coat will lose colour, developing more white fur in order to be able to blend in with the snow.
Mating can occur year round, and the female will carry the cubs for 3.5 months before giving birth to two to six cubs in a den within a cave, rocky crevice or dense vegetation. The cubs are born with their eyes shut and weigh 2 to 3 pounds. Their eyes open at 2 weeks, and they’re weaned at 6 to 8 weeks. The mother begins taking them on kills at three months and by 18 months, the cubs will begin to make their own kills. She keeps training them until they reach approximately two years. The cubs leave her side to establish their own territories at three years. Tigers average 10 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity.