The largest of all the Asian big cats, tigers rely primarily on sight and sound rather than smell. They typically hunt alone and stalk prey. A tiger can consume up to 88 pounds of meat at one time. On average, tigers give birth to 2-3 cubs every 2-2.5 years. If all the cubs in one litter die, a second litter may be produced within 5 months.
Tigers generally gain independence at two years of age and attain sexual maturity at 3-4 years for females and at 4-5 years for males. Juvenile mortality is high however—about half of all cubs do not survive more than two years. Tigers have been known to reach the age of 26 years in the wild.
Males of the largest subspecies, the Amur (Siberian) tiger, may weigh up to 660 pounds. For males of the smallest subspecies—the Sumatran tiger—upper range is at around 310 pounds. Within each subspecies, males are heavier than females. Tigers are mostly solitary, apart from associations between mother and offspring. Individual tigers have a large territory and the size is determined mostly by the availability of prey. Although individuals do not patrol their territories, they visit over a period of days or weeks and mark their territory with urine and feces.
Across their range, tigers face unrelenting pressure from poaching, retaliatory killings and habitat loss. They are forced to compete for space with dense and often growing human populations.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The tiger is the biggest member of the cat family.
- There are as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild.
- The tiger has been rated as endangered by the IUCN.
- Tigers that breed with lions create hybrid offspring known as tigons or ligers.