Siberian Tigers: Fierce Beauty Endangered
The Siberian Tiger is one of the largest wild cats in the world, weighing in at 700 pounds and measuring 75-90 inches in length on average. To give you an idea, the Siberian Tiger stands roughly 4 inches taller than his cousin the Bengal Tiger. Females are quite a bit smaller than males, growing only to about 400 pounds on average.
The Siberian Tiger has other physical attributes which distinguish him from his Bengal cousin. Because the Siberian Tiger resides in a colder climate he has a far denser coat, with as much as 3,000 hairs per square inch of his body. The Siberian Tiger also grows a dense ruff of fur around his neck which helps keep him warm. His paws are thickly padded to guard against snow and ice, and his coat includes more white than the Bengal's to provide him with better camouflage in the snow. Siberian Tiger's coats are also more sparsely striped, to help then blend in better with their environments.
A Siberian Tiger does not reach sexual maturity until about 4 years of age. After this they can breed at any time of the year, with the female indicating receptiveness by leaving urine and scratch marks on trees. She'll usually stay with the male for a week, after which she leaves. Gestation lasts for about three months after which the female gives birth to a litter of four to six cubs. At birth there are usually as many males as females, but by the time the cubs have matured there are usually two to four females for every male tiger. This is because female cubs stay closer to the mother's den when they mature, but males must travel far for their own territory, leaving them prone to other tigers and poaching.
Predation and Competition
The Siberian Tiger's diet consists mainly of wild boar and red deer, so protecting these species is just as vital to saving the tiger as protecting the tiger itself is. Other animals in the Siberian Tiger's diet include moose, sika deer, roe deer, salmon, and rabbits. Siberian Tigers also occasionally prey on Asiatic black bears and on brown bears. This can be a deadly contest, ending in death for the tiger that tangles with a bear stronger than himself. It is thought this predation serves to remove weak members from both tiger and bear species.
The other competition the Siberian Tiger has is the wolf. When wolf and tiger territories overlap the species compete fiercely for prey, and kill each without the intent to eat the loser. Tigers have even hunted wolves to extinction in certain parts of the Amur Far East, and any wolf packs are scattered and relatively small in number. For the Siberian Tiger there can be no competing predators in his range.
Reason they are engangered
The Siberian Tiger's troubles begin during the Russian Civil War, which began in 1917. Both side of the war exacted massive casualties on the Siberian Tiger population, reducing their territory until the only tigers left were in the Amur region. In addition tiger hunting was legal until 1947 when it was officially prohibited.
The tiger population began to grow again, with the pressure of hunters relieved. For many decades the Siberian Tiger enjoyed peace, until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1987. With decreasing currency values and a broken economy it was far easier to bribe park rangers into ignoring poaching. The tiger's body parts were then sold on the black market for traditional Chinese medicine. Illegal deforestation also contributed to the tiger's loss of habitat. By the late 1980's the Siberian Tiger's numbers were alarming, with only 250 members left.
In 1992 however the Siberian Tiger found a savior, in the form of the Siberian Tiger Project. The project leapt into action to save the tiger and launched anti-poaching patrols, habitat improvement studies, and tiger tracking projects. The Siberian Tiger has seen improvement thanks to the Project's efforts, but the big cat still is considered critically endangered. Captive Siberian Tigers exist, but the possibility of their survival in the wild is slim to none.
How you can help
The Wildlife Conservation Society is the organization that launched and still maintains the original Siberian Tiger Project. You can donate at their webpage here:
AMUR, a UK organization dedicated to saving the Amur leopards and tigers can be found here: