Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Siberian Tigers - The World's Biggest Cats

Though most people probably picture a wild tiger living in a warm climate, the largest of cats, the Siberian tiger, actually lives somewhere much colder.
The Siberian tiger is almost identical to the now-extinct Caspian tiger that was present across most of central Asia until recently. Caspian tigers were hunted aggressively during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries throughout Russia and China as forests were converted to farmland. The last confirmed Caspian tiger sightings occurred in the 1950’s, though unconfirmed reports still occur in the Middle East.

The current Siberian tiger can only be found in the birch forests of eastern Siberia, far northeastern China and North Korea. The wild population is estimated to be around 500 individuals. It is thought that they continue to exist in these areas because of the low human population density. 

At nearly four feet tall at the shoulders and weighing nearly 700lbs, Siberian tigers are taller and heavier than Bengal tigers. They grow shaggy winter coats to deal with cold temperatures and tend to be less brightly colored than other tigers.

The Siberian tiger is an apex predator that feeds almost exclusively on red deer and wild boar. Both black and brown bears are occasionally hunted, but this is very rare. Brown bears have been known to hunt Siberian tigers as well; an equally rare occurrence. Siberian tigers also occur in the same habitat as wolves, though wolf populations tend to be much sparser in areas where the tiger is present. 
Photo: Jelenia Sika
Despite their massive size, attacks by Siberian tigers on humans are rare. They are known to be extremely solitary animals that prefer to avoid human interaction. Most attacks throughout history have been either by wild tigers that were provoked or captive-raised tigers that did not possess an instinctual fear of humans.

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