Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are the largest of the wild cats. Adults are up to 13 feet long and can weigh up to 700 pounds. They live 10 to 15 years in the wild. These powerful animals have an extensive habitat, though it is becoming more and more threatened due to hunting and human settlement.
Siberian tigers live predominantly in Russia’s birch forests but are also found in China and North Korea. Their habitat ranges from Siberia to the forests of the Amur Basin. According to National Geographic, there were only 400 to 500 Siberian tigers living in the wild in 2010. Though colder in climate, Russia’s forests offer the Siberian tiger protection since the forests are more remote. There are fewer humans living close by, and their prey is more plentiful.
Siberian tiger mothers protect their cubs while the fathers hunt. The mothers wean the cubs at two to four months, but she will protect them from predators and male tigers for another two years. Cubs learn how to hunt once they reach 16 months old, and at two to three years old they leave their parents and find their own territories.
Predators Within Their Habitat
The main predator of Siberian tigers is man. Overall tiger populations--including tigers that aren't Siberian and tigers in captivity--have decreased from hundreds of thousands to approximately 5,000 to 7,000, due to forest destruction and hunting, National Geographic asserts. A very real threat to Siberian tigers is poaching, though it has declined.
Prey Within Their Habitat
Siberian tigers hunt lynx, fish, birds, rabbits, moose, deer, bear, elk, hares, cattle, goats, pigs and small animals. Their primary food source is antelopes, rodents and buffaloes. They will travel many miles to find their prey. It is rare that a Siberian tiger hunts humans. In these cases it is usually due to illness, lack of prey, or human encroachment on their land.
Protection for an Endangered Species
The Siberian tiger is a critically endangered species. Along with poaching and forest destruction, Siberian tigers are hunted for their fur and body parts. Chinese medicine uses bones and other body parts for healing purposes. According to the "Explore the Wild" website, in 1991 an estimated one-third of the Siberian tiger population was killed for this purpose. Since 1993 it is illegal to use tiger bones for medicinal purposes. According to the Animal Welfare Institute, there are strong conservation efforts in place to protect the Siberian tiger and its habitat.
tiger image by Christopher Walker from Fotolia.com