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Physical Characteristics

The tiger is the largest member of the cat family. The Siberian tiger, the largest subspecies, can weigh up to 800 pounds and have a head and body length of up to thirteen feet. Tigers have massive muscles for killing its prey. Their hind limbs are stronger and longer as an adaptation for jumping up to thirty-five feet, and the forelimbs can curve inward as a means of gripping. The paws of the tiger are also highly adapted; the pads on their paws are soft so they make almost no noise while creeping up to its prey, and the tiger has sharp, long, retractable claws. The coloration of the tiger varies by the geographical area it encompasses. The background color can range from a tawny-yellow to orange, and with black stripes which visually disrupts the shape of its body, and white undersides. The white tiger is mostly found in zoos and is extremely rare in the wild. Their hearing is very good, and the night vision of a tiger is five times better than that of a human's.

Life and Habitat of a Tiger

The tiger lives in tropical and evergreen forests, woodlands, grasslands, rocky country, swamps, and savannas. The territory of a tiger can be from five to sixty square miles. They are marked with a potent mixture of urine and gland secretions on trees, rocks, and bushes. Scratches on trees are also used. The territory of a male will overlap that of a females, which is very common among big cats.

Out of all the big cats, the tiger has killed the most humans. People are not the tiger's natural prey, but there are some reasons why some tigers may begin to add us to their diet. If a tiger can not get its natural prey, people are an easy kill. There are several reasons why that may occur, such as old age, being injured, and a low supply of its prey are examples. The tiger also may attack a human if one comes into its territory, or if a person is trying to defend his/her livestock. If a cub sees its mother kill people, then as the cubs reach adulthood it may seek out people, just as they would seek out an elk or any other prey. Actions to stop human attacks include wearing a mask with facial features on the back of your head because the tiger generally attacks from the back, and increasing availability of natural prey.

Hunting and Feeding

The tiger prefers larger prey, often ranging anywhere from one to nine hundred pounds. This can include barking deer, sambar, elk, chital, Swamp deer, Red deer, Rusa deer, wild pigs, bison, sambar, Sika deer, Hog deer, rhino and elephant calves, water buffalo, moose, wapiti, guar, or livestock if necessary. It begins its hunt in the late afternoon and can travel up to twelve miles in search for food. It stalks and moves very close to its victim, them leaps on its prey, knocking it down with its weight. Then the tiger will clamp down on the neck, suffocating its victim. The hunt will be successful once out of ten or twenty attemps. After the kill has been made, the tiger will drag the carcass to a thick undergrowth to hide it from scavengers. The tiger will come back to the carcass for several days to feed on it. Unlike lions, cubs will eat before the mother will. A tiger may eat from fifty to seventy pounds of meat each day.

Reproduction and Cubs

When a female is in estrous, females attract males by spraying and making noises such as moaning or roaring. A female enters estrus every three to nine weeks, and her receptivity lasts three to six days. Mating is more common in cooler months, from November to April in tropical regions, and in temperate areas a tiger will only mate in the very coolest months. The mating ceremony begins by the pair circling each other and growling. The female may attempt to run away, but the male will follow the female. After a period of rejection, the two tigers will rub their bodies together and copulation begins. It is very brief, and can be repeated up to one hundred times in the five or six day period. Female tigers are induced ovulators.

After a gestation period around one hundred days, a litter of two to five cubs are born blind and helpless, weighing about two pounds, in a cushion of matted grass in a cave, hollow tree, or a dense vegetation. An average of two cubs survive to adulthood. The cubs gain vision by two weeks, begin to eat meat at around two months, and are fully weaned by the sixth month. Now, the cubs travel with their mother as she hunts, and are taught the skills they will need to know to survive. After about a year of training, the mother's cubs become independent hunters and are often as large or larger than their mother. They may stay in the mother's home range until they are thrown out by their mother when she prepares for a new litter of cubs. They will then disperse from the territory, and try and establish one of their own.

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