The Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) or Amur tiger is a rare cat which inhabits the Russian Far East. The largest population occurs in the mountain regions of Sikhote Alin. Once the cat was widely distributed throughout the north-eastern China and Korea but today there are as fewer as 393 tigers living in the wild. Siberian tigers are also known as Manchurian tiger, Korean tiger, and Ussurian tiger.
Characteristics and Description
Adult Siberian tigers weigh as much as 318 kg (701 lb) with the body length measuring up to 350 cm (140 in). Males are larger than females. The average weight of males is 180-306 kg (397- 675 lb) whereas females average 100-167 kg (220-368 lb) in weight. The tiger possesses fairly dense coat which protects the animal from the extreme cold of Siberia. Siberian cats have 15-17 mm (0.59-0.67 in) long fur on the back. The whiskers are 90-115 mm (3.5-4.5 in) long. Siberian cats are not only the largest cats but also the largest carnivorous land mammals. They are remarkable swimmers and tigers are known to follow their prey into the water. They are adapted to living in extreme cold weather unlike Asian subspecies that lives in warm habitats.
Amur tigers prey on a wide range of species such as Siberian roe deer, Manchurian wapiti, moose, Manchurian sika deer, long-tailed goral, wild boar, Siberian musk deer, salmon, hares, pikas, and rabbits. They can also kill Asian black bears and Ussuri brown bears.
Range and Habitat
Siberian cats make homes at high altitudes measuring up to 500 to 800 m (1,600 to 2,600 ft) above sea level. The Siberian tiger is thought to occur mainly in the Russian Far East and eastern Siberia. It also inhabits around Lake Baikal. They are likely to make habitats in coniferous-deciduous forest, Korean alpine broadleaf forests, and northern boreal complex.
Territorial and Social Behavior
Amur tigers will travel as much as 1,000 kilometers. They have large home ranges but Siberian cats actively defend territories. Siberian tigers are outstanding swimmers. The tiger is likely to recognize its territory which is abundant in hollow trees, caves, as well as thick vegetation. They do so in order to protect themselves or probably their cubs from other land predators.
Amur tigers do not appear to have specific mating season since female remain receptive all year round. The gestation period is about 3 – 3.4 months after which 2 – 4 cubs are born. The litter size may be as many as 6. Males will attain maturity at 4 – 5 years of age. Siberian cats have an average lifespan of about 10 to 15 years.
Conservation and Population
Siberian cats are highly endangered cats with the global population only 310 to 393 surviving in the wild habitat. The amur tigers are endangered primarily because of massive deforestation and habitat destruction. Humans are mainly responsible for pushing tigers to leave their native habitat. It indeed brings humans and tigers closer to each other. The close encounter of humans with tigers has rendered many tigers redundant in their own habitat.