Amur tiger kills and eats dog, Jilin Province, China
Last week (mid-December 2012) I was in north-east China accompanied by my Chinese colleagues from the China Academy of Transportation Sciences and the Jilin Provincial Communication Research Institute researching opportunities for improving habitat connectivity for Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) across transportation infrastructure. We were out with Mr. Jianmin Lang, who is responsible for the management of Amur tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, and Amur leopards in the Hunchun Tiger-Leopard Reserve along the border with Russia and North Korea. As we were scouting places along the road where tigers are known to cross the highway, Mr. Lang received a call that a large animal, potentially a tiger, had just killed a farmer’s dog. We were just a few kilometers away, so we went out to investigate. We were joined by Wildlife Conservation Society-China employees and police investigators. The investigation was important, as farmers/locals are financially compensated if domestic animals are killed by tigers.
Behind the farm we found very large tracks in the snow, likely an Amur tiger, but we weren’t immediately certain. We followed the fresh trail up the hill into the forest behind the farm. It was a very bloody trail; most likely from the dog. After about 20 minutes we came to the first site where the tiger had bedded down and eaten part of the dog. It had left a dog leg behind and at this point we found very clear Amur tiger tracks in the bloody snow (about 6 inches wide!). The tiger had moved on with the dog carcass, dragging it to two more places where it bedded down and ate.
About 1.5 hours earlier, before we arrived, the farmer had followed the trail on his own to see what happened to his dog. He actually saw the tiger at the third location where the tiger had eaten. Fortunately both the tiger and the farmer retreated. When we approached the third spot we saw that the tiger had dragged what remained of the dog for another 20 meters or so. We did not approach the dog carcass any closer as we did not want to place our scent on the kill and have the tiger think people were competing for its food. The tiger was likely still around and it was possible it would come back later to eat the rest of the dog.
In addition to the snow tracks, the images show Mr. Lang taking measurements of the tracks, and collecting tiger hair and tiger urine samples. The hair and urine samples can potentially identify the individual tiger through DNA analyses.
Our experience that day also highlighted a serious threat to tigers and other wildlife in the region: poaching. Poaching not only affects tigers directly, but it also affects their food source. Poaching of prey species such as Siberian roe deer and wild boar is widespread in the area. Low prey density leads to increased livestock and guard dog depredation by tigers and other carnivores. Interestingly we found snares and traps hanging from a shed at the farm. The farmer stated he had removed these snares and traps from the woods. This may be true as they appeared old and not recently used. Consequently the farmer did not get fined. We also found an old snare with branches grown into it when we were tracking the tiger. Mr. Lang removed the snare from the forest, as well as the old snares and traps at the farm.
Note: The Amur tiger is listed as endangered and its population is estimated at about 400-500 individuals. Most of the Amur tigers now live in Russia. Currently there may only be about 20 individuals or so in China, primarily along the border with Russia.
Keywords:Amur tiger, Amur tigers, Panthera tigris, Panthera tigris altaica, ate, conflict, depredation, dog, eat, farm, farmer, human, humans, kill, killed, livestock, people, predate, tiger
© Marcel Huijser Photography