Amur tiger

Panthera tigris altaica

The Amur tiger (formerly known as the Siberian tiger) is found only in the mountain forests of eastern Russia, with a small population ranging across the border into China. This tiger subspecies is adapted to the region's high latitude, harsh climate, and long winters.

The life of an Amur tiger

Amur tigers are the largest cats in the world. They can grow up to 15 feet long from head to tail, and stand up to 3 feet tall. Males weigh between 300 and 675 pounds and are larger than the females, which weigh 160 to 300 pounds.

Like human fingerprints, the striped pattern on each Amur tiger's fur is unique to that individual. They have fewer, paler stripes on their coats than other tigers, which become even lighter in winter. To protect them from the cold, their fur grows thicker than other tigers' fur, and they have manes. Thick fur on their paws keeps their feet warm, allows them to walk silently as they stalk prey, and makes their feet behave like showshoes as they move through the snow. Their long claws are retractable, which allows them to run easily and quickly.

Amur tigers live alone, marking their scent on trees to keep other tigers away. When hunting they rely more on sight and hearing than smell. They hunt for elk, boar, and deer, stalking them until they are close enough to pounce. They drag their kill to a secluded area before devouring the meat.

Because of naturally low numbers of prey animals in eastern Russia, Amur tigers have large hunting areas. Females range up to 12 square miles, while males patrol areas more than twice that size. With such large territories, an area about the size of Arizona is needed to support a healthy population of several hundred Amur tigers.

Female Amur tigers have cubs every 2 to 4 years. Pregnancy lasts 3 to 3 ½ months for a litter of 2 to 4 cubs, each of which weighs 2 to 4 pounds. The female teaches them to hunt, and the cubs make their first independent kill at about 7 months. By the time they are two years old, the young tigers can kill large prey on their own, but they often stay with their mother for another year or more before leaving to establish their own territory.

Amur tigers live 10 to 12 years in the wild. In captivity they can live up to 20 years, but their average life expectancy is 14-16 years.

Amur tiger conservation

Listed as endangered, Amur tigers are threatened by poaching and loss of habitat to the illegal logging industry. Approximately 400 are left in the wild. Most of the 150 Amur tigers in North American AZA facilities are part of conservation breeding programs, including the Species Survival Plan in the United States.  

Amur tigers at the Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo's Amur tiger lives in the Amur Tiger exhibit near Steller Cove.

Mikhail

Mikhail was born on October 31, 1998. He arrived on September 12, 2000 from the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Though Mikhail is a part of the Species Survival Plan, his genetics are well represented in the captive gene pool, so he is not approved to breed. Mikhail, or "Mik," does very well as a solitary tiger in his habitat...