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Siberian Tiger

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A Siberian tiger photographed at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado

About the Siberian Tiger

Siberian (or Amur) tigers are the world's largest cats.

Population Range

They live primarily in eastern Russia's birch forests, though some exist in China and North Korea. Though their northern climate is far harsher than those of other tigers, these animals have some advantages. Northern forests offer the lowest human density of any tiger habitat, and the most complete ecosystem. The vast woodlands also allow tigers far more room to roam, as Russia's timber industry is currently less extensive than that of many other countries.

Threats to Survival

Tigers are the largest of all wild cats and are renowned for their power and strength. There were once nine tiger subspecies, but three became extinct during the 20th century. Over the last hundred years, hunting and forest destruction have reduced overall tiger populations dramatically. Tigers are hunted as trophies and also for body parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicine. All six remaining tiger subspecies are threatened, and many protection programs are in place. Poaching is a reduced—but still very significant—threat to Siberian tigers.

Hunting

Tigers live alone and aggressively scent-mark large territories to keep their rivals away. They are powerful hunters that travel many miles to find prey, such as elk and wild boar, on nocturnal hunts. Tigers use their distinctive coats as camouflage (no two have exactly the same stripes) and hunt by stealth. They lie in wait and creep close enough to attack their victims with a quick spring and a fatal pounce. A hungry tiger can eat as much as 60 pounds in one night, though they usually eat less.

Despite their fearsome reputation, most tigers avoid humans; however, a few do become dangerous maneaters. These animals are often sick and unable to hunt normally, or live in areas where their traditional prey has vanished.

Reproduction

Females give birth to litters of two to six cubs, which they raise with little or no help from the male. Cubs cannot hunt until they are 18 months old, and remain with their mothers for two to three years, when they disperse to find their own territory.


Watch: Meet Russia's Tiger Guardians

Only about 500 Siberian tigers remain in eastern Russia and the bordering regions. Habitat loss and poaching threaten the dwindling population, but one group is focused on protecting the tigers. Go behind the scenes as Russian park rangers and conservationists crack down on illegal poaching.