"100 episodes of meeting with tiger".
Let's rescue the Amur tigers!
It is easy to say. But how? Who can do it?
Personally I am convinced that it is a task for those who live close to tigers. Only for them. So, it means, people of taiga settlements are responsible for the destiny of striped predators.
To you I address. Dear hunters, foresters and woodcutters, bee masters and inveterate anglers, teachers, doctors, bakers and sellers, schoolboys and housewives! Everyone, who is native with taiga and with river, with sea and with field! I ask you to be patient and to read this not brilliant, but worked out by long meditations at fires and at kerosene lamp, a book about tiger, about striped, powerful predator, which leaves nobody indifferent.Bears, brown and Himalayan, lynx and glutton, huge boar and moose, beautiful roe deer, spotty deer and gorals - any animal is there in taiga, and it can be met to photograph, to admire or to kill. Some of them are very rare, for example, mythical red wolves or glutton in the south, and gorals in the north. But only the destiny of tiger has caused such a storm of letters, meetings, discussions and even the intergovernmental contracts and agreements.
I do not understand why. Why tigers and not leopards, their quantity in nature not exceeding 30 individuals? Probably, because the Amur tiger is the wild cat, most powerful and dangerous to the man. How many tragedies, legends, books are devoted to tiger, how many countries and peoples esteem of this predator!
Let's look through the basic items of information on tigers.
There were times, and not so long time ago, about 100 years, when the Amur tiger lived from Korea up to Yakutia and from the Lake Baikal up to the coast of the Sea of Japan. These times are in past now. Today on the Korean peninsula it is not present, in China there are not more than 30 individuals. To rescue them, the Chinese have constructed tiger farms and grow tigers there as pigs. To one feeding female they join 2-3 litters from other females, then kill them and make a "gold" medicine of them, and on the obtained money they feed up the left animals. Now they build large enclosures, where they teach young tigers to hunt on wild ungulates, and then they let tigers out by small groups in reserves and in other places, where the tigers lived before. This is the plan. The task is not simple, but quite real. For now in China, despite of a death penalty for illegal kill of a tiger, the number of predators continues to decrease.
How are tigers with us in Russia?
In the beginning of our century the tiger was numerous. 50-80 tigers were killed annually in 1900 through 1914. Naturally, the number of tigers had begun to fall and since 1915 they had practically disappeared on coast of the Sea of Japan, surviving only in the wilderness taiga. Meat, bones, skin and even the moustache of a predator were highly appreciated in the Chinese medicine market, and in the 20-30s the cost of the extracted tiger was 800-1000 rubles, while a cow could be bought for 40-80 rubles. (Kutcherenko, 1973).
How to study tiger?
It is very difficult to study the life of a tiger. Try, the dear reader, for a short while to imagine yourself a zoologist, who has decided to engage " in the problem of tiger ". So, you the zoologist also make the program of research. What to do? All snowless period (and in our conditions this means 7-8 months a year) it is not easy to find not only tiger, but also its traces in taiga. Rare traces, scratches on a dirty slice of a track, on sandy beach near the river or sea... And that's all.
In the winter, certainly, it is possible to read in "the white book", it will tell you much, but it will pose even more riddles. A white track is really an open book, but on some pages there are continuous puzzles. Why the tiger has gone on this track, and not on that? Why it stood here for so long, looking for what? How much time was it lying? And who was it: a male, a female or a cub? Is this the trace you've already marked in this place, or one from another animal?
Some skilled taiga men, dozens years mastering the taiga science, can often tell on a trace of a tiger that it is an old male, eight year old, went over there, leaves " marks" in such places, but it is almost impossible to check up these items of information (go and ask the tiger eight years or ten).
On the size of a foot print, as on the size of footwear, the tigers can be classified in three groups:"youth" is below one year and half, width of "sole" 5-8 centimeters;It is interesting to notice, that many hunters distinguish a female from male on jet of urine, believing that from a male it is directed forward on a course of movement of the animal, and a female sits down (as dogs). However, with tigers it is not quite so. It is enough to observe a home cat, as it marks the territory: it approaches a pole, corner of a fence, turns back to it, lifts the tail - and here already the jet is put. Precisely so both cats and tigers do. We repeatedly observed "urine points" on stones, ledges of rocks, on the inclined trees, where both males and females of tigers regularly left marks (specially descended from a track, "to check in") at height of 30-50 centimeters above the ground. However, it is absolutely difficult to distinguish males from females on urine labels.
the adult males, width of sole 11-13 centimeters (we never found more);
all other tigers, with sole from 8 up to 11 centimeters, are mostly adult females and also young animals, at all parameters equal to their mothers, but not ready to live an independent life or to get their own family.
To go on traces of a tiger is not sugar, well, day or two is OK- hey, man, what if by weeks, months? And if in a day or two after the trace's been found, is that you that go on tiger trace, or it goes on yours? And very often the tiger reacts so, having felt a persuasive observer.
And, at last, most important - each tiger occupies a huge individual home range. It is his and only his territory, other tigers have no rights. Females, as a rule, have smaller ranges, and males visit ranges of several females.There is still a lot of unclear, disputable, that it is necessary to understand, if you’re engaged in "the problem of tiger " So, dear reader, are you going to undertake study of this mysterious animal? Not yet? Well, this is correct. It is better to wait for a textbook or a brochure, where all riddles will be with the answers.
Lev Georgievitch Kaplanov
A little back in past, really, there were no volunteers to study the life of striped predator. There were hunters to kill tiger, there were brigades of tiger trappers, but nobody had undertaken serious research. The first scientist fearlessly stepping on tiger tracks was Lev Georgievitch Kaplanov. He was born and had grown in Moscow. From childhood he had grown fond of animals, and in a circle of the young biologists of a zoo this love was fixed for all life. Kaplanov seemed to be born a taiga scientist and, according to the known zoologist A.Formozov: "In study of such animals, as moose, deer, tiger, demanding exclusive strength, skill and persistence from a naturalist, he had found the true calling and, it is possible to say without exaggeration, was probably unrivalled". In 1936 Kaplanov as a usual scientist arrived to work in the Sikhote-Alin reserve and all his further life was given to studies and protection of animals in the Ussuri territory.
For the short period of time L.Kaplanov had collected huge data on mammals of the Sikhote-Alin, which only partially was published after his tragic death (he was killed by the poachers in 1943) in his book "Tiger, deer, moose" in 1948.
In his diaries and notes L.Kaplanov told first about a menancing situation with a population of tigers in the Far East, put up first a question in the central press about necessity of delivering urgent measures on its rescue, offered and checked up first a technique of the field research. As he wrote, during the first expeditions of V.Arseniev in 1902 through 1910 tigers could be found on both slopes of the mountain country in Southern, Middle and Northern Sikhote-Alin, at least up to the river Samarga in the coastal part and even further to the north.
Till 1914-1916 the tigers were met on eastern slopes in the area of the modern Sikhote-Aline reserve up to the sea... Last tiger, by his data, in Terney, was killed in 1915. "Since 1916 the tigers, as constant residents, completely had disappeared on the seaside. They only roamed in most upper rivers running to the Sea of Japan, from western slopes, where tigers have lived till now ".
Analyzing the materials collected in 1936-1941 on tiger, Kaplanov comes to a conclusion, that "general population of tigers in the specified part of the Ussuri territory (the reserve and boundary territory - about 30 000 square kilometers) - 12-14 individuls... ", and the tigers having appeared on eastern slopes, where they had been absent for 20-25 years, in Kaplanov's opinion , had taken place due to the reserve establishment.
Valentin Dmitrievitch Shamykin
After the Great Patriotic war 1941-1945 the Kaplanov's colleague-zoologist V.Shamykin had reduced all materials available in reserve on mammals, in his large work "The Mammals of the Sikhote Alin State Reserve ", which is still the handbook for the employees of reserve. All modern teriologists of the reserve started from works of L.Kaplanov, V.Shamykin, K.Abramov, G.Bromley.
In his report V.Shamykin wrote: " By1944 the population of tiger in the Middle Sikhote Alin has formed a powerful center of regeneration. Since 1940 females of a tiger has left a minimum one litter, which being settled on the territory, in many places outbounds the limits of reserve. In summer of 1944 the mass transitions of animals from Manchuria were observed... Related to this, in winter 1944-45 there is an increase of cases of meeting tiger by hunters, local inhabitants, reserve staff... Cases of tiger kills from now on become frequent also."
Extremely interestingly V.Shamykin writes about those cases when the tiger meets a man in its hunting range, follows him and "sees off". "There is such an impression, as if the tiger hunted on the researcher... “To me personally and other zoologists of reserve it happened to be the objects”of tiger hunt many times. During my travels in the winter period 1944-45 on the river Kolumbey I was under "supervision" of a tiger for four days. In the daytime it followed me "on heels", in places on ski tracks or parallel to my course. At the night it lay nearby. Such was repeated every day. While I untangled its yesterday's behaviour (on traces), it was following after me, which became clear at my return course to the bivouac. Thus, the tiger did not let me out of the scope of its attention until I had left the limits of its hunting area. It is possible to explain such long pursuit in two ways: it was either a hungry animal trying to catch food for living, or it was a hunting female, which with this obtrusive patrolling protected approach to the den.
The similar shadowing hunts are observed also in summer. As an example I shall bring up a case happened to me. In the summer of 1946, on going through the Sikhote-Alin in Terney region of the reserve, I passed through the left watershed of inflows. This transition had coincided with the period of mass appearance of bloodsucking insects, therefore animals had all moved out to the foothills of the Sikhote-Alin and to the burns, so I was the only "representative of fauna", being able to satisfy a hungry large predator. Intending to stay at the night in one of the cabins, I slowed down and had to walk in perfect darkness. About two kilometers not reaching up to the cabin, I heard among rustle and crackling of branches made by myself, repeating from time to time rustles and crackling that came from away. These extraneous sounds sometimes came near to me, from time to time stopped or disappeared. By force of the sound of branches crackling and rustle, it was a large animal. It followed me from aside, parallel to my course, sometimes coming up to the distance of 50 meters, and sometimes even closer... Such behaviour is only characteristic of tiger, for other animals after recognizing presence of man immediately try to run away. Thus distinguishing a tiger to be the animal, I decided to frighten it off by shooting from the rifle, and the animal heavily rushed aside and for some time abandoned me. But in a while it proceeded. In about ten minutes it attached to me again, and I was again compelled to shoot in air. It repeated a few times, while the animal had kept close to me. Finally by recognizing the "fellow traveller" of a tiger, I have mobilized all my attention and care, listening to slightest rustle and crackling. And still, despite of it, I was taken by surprise. By outstripping me, the tiger lay down on my way letting me come up by 5-6 meters, then jumped in my side, but apparently from fear made a usual, "tactical" miss... Fairly frightened, I started to cannonade. Then I immediately set up the fire and decided to stop for the night, not reaching the cabin some 800 meters. Despite of the noise made by me and the fire, the tiger still did not leave my bivouac for long. It circled around several times being not confused on my repeated shots. Only after I had cooked supper for myself and boiled the tea, the tiger, at last, left me in rest. Finally it growled in a voice a little resembling the clang of an axe at the impact of the frozen wood. The picture of an attack became especially clear in the morning... At old fallen trunks there were traces of a lying beast - the trampled grass. On the oozy ground there were traces displaying the moment of hunt and of a sharp jump across my way. In my opinion, it was the same female and that it passed me off near its den.
It is worth to note that usually when shadowing, the tiger behaves extremely cautiously and even cowardly. It almost never shows itself, and only in rare cases the insolent animal supposes attempts to be thrown over man, but does it always very cowardly, usually misses aside, so the hunter has time to recover readiness or, anyway, to make some single shots and to frighten off the animal.
All cases known to me of killing tiger recently resulted form its tracing the hunter or his dogs. Its presence near is found out not by the hunter, but his dog, to which tiger has especial congenital hostility.Cases of killing man by tiger lately were not registered, but the facts of attack or persistent prosecutions take place:- By the end of winter 1945 down the Kema river a fatally wounded tiger threw on a Terney hunter Kolesnik, knocked him down, but didn't cause much hurm, as it died soon;- At the end of December 1945 a Red Army sailor M.Kuklin, hunting in a wood, in twilight was overtaken by a tiger, which repeatedly tried to hunt him. Because of the coming darkness Kuklin was afraid to shoot at the animal and frightened it off with a few shots. The tiger had left the hunter only when his comrades came on shots. All known cases of similar shadowing and attempts of tiger attacks always ended without any special tragedies".
Since the 40s the number of tigers had begun to grow very slowly, but steadily. In the beginning of the 70s their quantity in the Primorye Territory had reached over 100 (S.Kutcherenko, 1970; A.Yudakov, I.Nikolaev, 1972).
Anatoly Grigorievitch Yudakov, Igor Georgievitch Nikolaev
At the end of the sixties there were found two services of science with strong spirit and body, who have undertaken to tell that newest authentic word about the king of animals, - Anatoly Yudakov and Igor Nikolaev.
Both low and stocky, both desperately courageous, both hardy and both silent and modest. They, as the twins were both from the far taiga village of Stoyby, sheltered on banks of the wild and capricious beauty Selemja, both genuine hunters from childhood and even both sportsmen - in gymnastics, skis and shooting. Their friends of childhood were common, because they not just grew in one settlement, but also studied at one school, behind one desk up to the tenth grade. Many years after, in the laboratory of vertebrate zoology of the Soil Biology Institute they sat at the next tables, as though spoke in one voice, listened with one ears and looked with one eyes (see the article by S. Kutcherenko “"The last route of Yudakov"”in the magazine "Okhota i okhotnichie khozyaystvo" (Hunt and hunting facilities)”1976, #8).
The men walked on tiger traces about 2000 kilometers, collected a huge material about life of tiger, but again... The tragic death of one of them interrupted this important research. A result of it had become their book“"Ecology of the Amur tiger"”, which was published by“Nauka” in 1987.
Under the direction of these researchers in the 70's the census of striped predators was carried out in the Kraj which had shown, that the number of tigers had increased up to 130-134 animals.
By the end of the 80s the number of the Amur tigers in the south of Far East had grown up to 300-350 animals. And in 1992 only at customs house there were confiscated more than 50 tiger skins. Reorganization, market economy and shock therapy - all of it tigers could feel with “their own skins”. For two years there was a criminal onslaught in taiga: they killed every entity which flies, creeps or runs. The jet of kabarga, bear gall, deer horns, furs and the skins began to flow abroad as a river. There was nobody to protect: the old systems had been destroyed, while the new had not been created yet. To the present moment the demand on“raw material” has fallen, the structures of the control and protection are restored, but the number of animals has been greatly reduced.
The census of tigers in the reserve
The census of tiger is not a simple business, the organization has to be done in all territory of Primorsky Kraj, in the south of Khabarovsk and Amur areas, takes a lot of time and requires big expenditures. It is much easier to organize the census on any limited stationary area, for example, in one of protected territories.
For more more than 20 years the annual census of tigers have been carried out in the Lazo and Sikhote-Alin reserves, and the results show that the number of this feline in reserves has stabilized in the limits of 15-20 adult animals (number of cubs varies from 2 up to 14) in the Sikhote-Alin and 8-18 individuals in the Lazo reserve, and practically all tigers regularly cross the bounds of the reserves.
The annual census of tiger in protected territories allow to determine long-term and short-term changes in number, accommodation and behaviour of these predators, and their results can serve as an indicator or signal of possible unexpected or undesirable changes in the general tiger population in the south of the Far East.
In our Sikhote-Alin reserve the systematic and wide registration was started in 1971. There are 14 routes on the basic watersheds of the rivers and springs with total extent about 500 kilometers. 28 employees simultaneously cross taiga routes on a white track to count its inhabitants. This chapter tells you how it usually occurs.
Long before the date all of us know that it is necessary to prepare for the census of wild animals on a winter track. Everyone prepares for it knowing that the route will be complex and difficult physically.
Strictly speaking, the tiger census is constantly conducted in the reserve, all the year round, and not only on winter tracks. The attitude to tiger is special...
All workers and visitors of reserve, irrespective of their rank and age, necessarily pay attention to any found traces of this huge cat. It is hard not to notice them even on bare ground, when suddenly your eyes “stumble” upon a print of a paw as big as the size of a tea saucer. And then a record will appear in a field diary: "Passing a trace of a tiger, size of a trace 14,5x16, heel 12 centimeters, step of 70 centimeters ". The date and location of discovery are given too. This is also a census, although casual.
In the summer, except for the fact of presence of an animal, though definite, the found trace gives not enough information. The summer trace of a tiger is only two - three prints of paw, determining its size, direction of movement of the animal and freshness of the trace. Where has it come from? Where has left? What did it see? "The Book of Taiga" is closed, and a page has just dropped out of it specifying it was written by a tiger. It would be desirable to glance at another page, but...
To the winter census on white track we begin to prepare beforehand and seriously. The routes of the census are allocated, the structures of groups defined, and finally the last instructions are given.
The census covers the most part of territory of the reserve, and the people leave altogether on one day. And, putting on the skis, in sulfur of morning twilight you know, that at these minutes there are putting skis all who you yesterday discussed with, argued, listening instructing in the reserve office. Now here you are and your partner, a rug-sack behind the shoulders, a field diary in the pocket and a route with "your" tigers. You will find the traces, the clean pages of your diary will be filled by the end of the route, that you do not doubt. And the consciousness of it pleases and forces you to impatiently look at the partner. But he slows down once again and ties up ski fastenings, carefully puts a casual piece of rope in his pocket - it may be useful, so you also mentally check, review the taken things. The main care - not to forget what is necessary or may in a way be useful. Involuntarily you pull up another piece of rope, which yesterday was rejected as useless. It is useful.
- Well, is it all?
- Dvinuli! (Let’s go ahead!)
And the first meters of a snow virgin soil lie down under skis, colorful sparkles of snow dance before your eyes. Trees are as if sprinkled by frost, and the thicket of a bush is dressed with fantastic pearls. On the first kilometers of the route, when you’re still fresh, you involuntarily notice details of the taiga which surrounds you. Again and again you are amazed with its improbable and fantastic beauty. As time passes you may suddenly notice that the collar of your jacket and the cap has been sparkled with frost in the morning sun, just like the taiga, the rug-sack has become sensible on shoulders. And just at the moment you hear a triumphing voice of the partner.
- Here it is!
You see from afar a deep furrow of a trace with friable edges of snow. Now you may stop, put off the rug-sack from shoulders and open the diary. On the first page there is already a record of condition of the weather, the date, route and first found traces: boar, roe, deer, some squirrels and weasels. And here, at last, the trace that you waited with a special impatience and even with an internal tremor.
First of all, measurements of length, width, size of heel, pace, the freshness. The direction of movement of a tiger is precisely seen on deep fresh snow. Now it is necessary to try to read on traces of a tiger, where it has come from, roamed or hunted the prey? So we go on the trace, but in the opposite direction, backwards. Although you are perfectly sure that the tiger is very sensitive and cautious, still a hope resides somewhere in hiding places of consciousness:...What if?
And though we have walked this way more than once and all details of the route are known beforehand, nevertheless you try to stretch your sight behind each next turn of the track.
Today we have one of the shortest transitions, though rather difficult one. The first day you carry the overloaded bulky rug-sack and this has an effect. Therefore we accept these ten kilometers of the route as a generic rehearsal of the forthcoming way.
In the evening, already in the cabin, we verify records in field diaries: number of squirrel traces, weasel, manchurian and white hare. On ice of the river there were traces of mink and otter, ungulates - boar, dear and roe. It is not enough of traces. The partner reassures:
-That's OK, we will be more lucky further on. Here are birch and rare larch, and there will begin pines..
I know it well myself, that the most vivid picture of taiga life will open in the Korean pine forest, but nevertheless there is a sensation that something is missing or overlooked by you, a feeling of disappointment that you have not met with a miracle. All these reflections accurately cover pages of the diary together with your firm intention to compare them to results of the previous campaigns - after returning home.
In the morning after breakfast you hastily pick up things - and back again on the track. What will please us on the forthcoming day? What miracle it has prepared? The unexpected begins to happen directly at the threshold of the hut. Just as we passed the first turn of the track, we came across a fresh tiger trace. The tiger came from one of the river inflows and went down by the track, and not by the river ice. The ice here has pits and cavities, and consequently the tiger had preferred the firm track to the deceptive ice. Having felt the proximity to human dwelling, it stood still at the turn of the track, and even lay on the snow, then returned onto the ice and bypassed our hut by the river. Then it crossed our yesterday's trace and turned to the right bank ridge.
What a surprise it was, when at the ridge foothill we found out three tiger traces of different freshness. The sizes of prints are close: 16x13, 15x12, 14x12 centimeters. The difference, most likely, is explained by unequal freshness of traces: earlier ones had melted more. The triple traces made an impression of a tiger pathway. Anyway, a constant route is here, and the tiger for certain will pass on it again. We exchange opinions on the constancy of tiger routes and we come to a unanimous conclusion that we shall receive the answers to all questions in the reserve office, when all participants of the census will get together and somebody for certain will register traces of "our" tiger. The census goal is to create an integral picture of each tiger movement and home within the limits of the reserve. We have provided a piece of a mosaic, which supplements the whole picture.
Other kilometers of the route do not bring anything unusual: the numerous traces of squirrels, and the same big quantity of the deer traces. But here the track crosses another small valley with a spring, which rolls quietly under the ice. Right on the ice, randomly, there are prints of a large brown bear, then the trace led to the track and went on it.
-That's good, now it will be easier to go, the bear will trample us a track. And look, the trace is fresh, almost not hardened. Hope it had walked up to the cabin.
It is really much easier to go, we have sped up and almost missed the trace of a tiger appearing on the track. One more tiger, and this time passing. It goes on a fresh bear trace! The combination of these traces always promises something interesting. The fortune smiles to us and promises a real opportunity to meet a miracle! This promise has turned to certitude, when, by passing the next turn of the track, we lifted a large clod of felted bear wool, and a bit later - two more. We attentively examined, almost sniffed the snow on the track - nothing even reminding fight. A usual furrow - the traces of two huge predators - came parallel between pines, following all curves of the track. I involuntarily begin to approach the next turn of the track hastily and at the same time intently, from a distance listening to the monotonous rumbling of wind in pine crowns. If my ear catches even remote growl or snarl, it will not surprise me, as it will satisfy the expectation: "Here at last"! But the track unwinds its turns, and the furrow is still here in the deep snow. Here is the sharp turn of the track from the ridge slope to the river meadow, where it is close to the cabin. We need to go down the track to the lowlands, while the traces of two owners of taiga climb up the slope to the top of the ridge. Short smoke break and the question: "To the cabin or after them?"
- Certainly, after them!
Leaving our sacks we silently set through the bush. 1.5 kilometers, nothing new, except for two clods of bear wool. Why does the tiger persistently go on the bear trace, and the bear does not feel pursuit and does not try to escape? These questions set unrest and give rise to new variants of the decisions, and it seems that the only correct decision would be to go on, on and on after this pair. I offer the partner this variant but reject it myself at once. Would be nice, but...It’s getting dark, and we still have to go a way up to the hut.
We approach the cabin when the stars are up in the sky. In darkness I gouged a hole in the ice, while the partner kindled the furnace and the kerosene lamp. After supper as usual we do viewing and verification of records in field diaries, before the sleep falls on you like a bear.
In the morning having warmed up the breakfast on the stove, we left the room in the habitual order and set up by the track to the bottom of the pass through the Sikhote-Alin. You could feel the ascent to begin long before the foot of the range, when the track was winding along a spring running from the range. That is why this pass was named The Patience by V.Arsenyev.
- It is interesting why I have never seen tiger traces up on the pass? And have you?
The partner did not come across them either, though he had passed here many times for ten years.
-It is also a result. Absence of traces tells us about...
- Wait, do not hurry up with conclusions. Maybe today we shall find them.
But we haven't. The traces of two wolves, one glutton, successful hunt of three kharzas on small deer were embodied in the snow on east slopes of the range. Those breaking traces, which first we were ready to accept for tiger, at careful survey seemed old bear traces. We have not seen a desired trace in spruce forest on the western Sikhote-Alin either.
- So what does it have to do here? Catch sika-deer?
- Well, if not constant routes, then transitions from one riparian basin to another?
- We are not lucky to find a transition.
Now that we needed to go less than already have gone, our rug-sacks were not so heavy, and we were familiar with the rest of route, this morning the partner for the first time has started talking about home... When you think of returning the expectation of the miracle has grown dull a little, and you look around more indifferently...
But there's much to look at. We are on the western slope of the range. The taiga has unrecognizably changed. The valleys are wider and under white clean cloths of snowed marshes; the track goes along now not pines but fur-trees, entirely in white coverlets of snow, as if sleeping under them. The sites of fur-trees turned upside down by the wind look like fantastic fortress, the castle of the snow ueen or the wood-goblin's house. The river running from western slopes is also much cluttered up with trunks in this place, therefore we tried to look indifferently at small patches of unblocked ice and consoled ourselves that after the merge of this inflow to the basic river we shall go on ice, as on asphalt.
But we had to get down on the ice sooner: near the bank on the snowed ice we saw a trace of a tiger... It was going downwards, patiently bypassing all blockages, just like us but some days ago. In many places the trace was filled with frozen water, mink and sable ran over the prints already. The white hare made us laugh by running rather accurately on the tiger trace in the same direction.
-You'll see the tiger chicken out ...!
The tiger purposefully went by ice to the river mouth. Just over there our penultimate daytime transition came to the end, being partially at night. By the track it would be faster, but the tiger either did not understand or did not know that, forcing us to make acrobatic tricks at breaking through blockages, and again we came to the cabin at stars.
The last day turned out the most interesting. We began this transition easily and quickly, moving on a thin layer of snow on ice. As usually we noted the yesterday's tiger trace and not expecting anything new, went beside it and loudly spoke on our impressions of what we'd seen. The next turn of the river... And we stumbled, stopped, looking feverishly around, at a great variety of tiger traces... Still "hot".
- How many?
- We have just have frightened them off with talking.
And we scattered on ice of a wide reach, bending and closely looking under feet.
- One. Two. Three. Three cubs with a tigress. Probably the one which trace we went on yesterday. And here... Go here!
At the bottom of a steep hill in thickets of Calamagrostislangsdorfii hidden in snow there's a place of the tiger family “camp, even a “settlement”. There's not much snow, it's trampled or melted, and an ash-tree trunk with its bark torn off. On the meadow there're visible traces of lying cubs, their jumps and scuffle. Bright yellow pieces of wool are here and there.
- See how much wool! It will suffice for a shaving-brush.
That is a miracle. Fortune has smiled to us! And we went on the river and shouted, we were lost in day-dreams about home, shouting over the taiga, even the tigers have run away...
- Shall we trace them?
- Let's go backwards first. We'll find out at first where they came from, and then, where have left.
However, it is impossible to answer these questions in details: they had been at the hill foot not one day and water had time to fill all old traces on the snowed river ice.
In the evening there was a car waiting for us, and in three hours we were at home, in the world of radio, electricity and clean sheets...
From such field diaries written, as a rule, in a more laconic language, one develops a general impression about the winter period life of animals in taiga. The simultaneity of research of the census participants enables us to determine the approximate amount and to a certain degree the sex and age structure of the population of tigers, their distribution on territory at this interval of time, judging on the size, freshness and direction of traces. Processing all cards, available on tiger, with the description of details of finding traces of this cat all year around, analyzing them, the reserve scientists compile the results in the annual book "The Annals of Nature", as a review of condition of tiger population in the reserve territory and around it.
At close viewing the book "The Annals of Nature" since 1935, the history of restoration of tiger "sites" in the reserve rather distinctly appears as half century of intense struggle, with encouraging and tragic events. Roughly it can be broken into three periods.
1935-1951 - the period of organization and stabilization of the reserve, interrupted by war. The area of reserve - 1 800 000 hectares. This extensive territory, protected from any kind of human impact, has helped to keep the last 30-40 tigers in the south of the Soviet Far East. And the tigers not only survived there, but also occupied territory adjacent to the reserve.
1951-1965 -– the time of heavy reorganizations of the area and changing borders of the reserve. First ten years the area of reserve is only 100 000 hectares, on which only 3-4 tigers can “get along “... In other, former reserved territory the operation of natural resources began, cutting down woods and accordingly causing the sharp reduction in number of tigers. In 1963 - 1965 there were practically no tigers in the reserve (already on the area of 310 000 hectares).
Since 1966 and today -–a period of tiger population development in the reserved and boundary territories. For these years the number of tigers in the reserve has grown to 15-20 adults, the cubs’number annually changes from 6 to 13.
The growth of amount of tigers becomes especially clear with the sharp increase of traces of their presence. In the reserve there're many such places where the tigers regularly go and leave marks: tracks with trees "combs", blackened from scratches of the feline, bear and boar, rocky walls with convenient niches, where tigers arrange their dens.
Getting in such place, you would continually feel that tiger is near, as though behind bushes, behind a tree, behind a rock you will see this majestic cat...
Many foresters and scientists know tigers in person, and even have studied their routes and time-table, when they appear near a cordon, a cabin or on a track.
Certainly, all this is very relative, there happen various cases, but it is the fact that on three kilometers of a track on the Serebryanny brook almost at any season there are 10-12 scratches of tiger, that here and there are trees with bark blackened from marks of this predator. This speaks of the steady character of tiger habitat in woods of the reserve. It is possible to say with confidence, that today tiger has become a usual background species in the reserve, such as deer, boar, squirrel or sable.
Meeting the tiger
The tiger is a predator of taiga. Ninety percent of the time, the tiger starts his day with the question: "What can I eat?". Most likely, other predators can decide this question easier. The bear, for example, is a predator, but at the same time he likes nuts, acorns, berries, ants, and roots of many herb species. "Legs feed the wolf". If he has to run
10 kilometers to hunt an elk, he will do it. The tiger, however, does not like to run for a long time. He can not do it, because he quickly gets tired. The tiger hunts by stalking, craftiness, and his knowledge of the landscape. Zoologists believe that only one or two out of ten hunts, initiated by the tiger, end up successfully.
That's why the tiger, like no other predator, carefully organizes his hunting ground. The tiger has his own system of routes where he knows every stone and shrub. The tiger also has his favorite plot - "central base" where he spends most of the time. Females have their own secret place "nursing home" where cubs spend their first months of life. The tiger often uses same trails, the ones he laid down along the most comfortable routes. There, he has the network of temporary and stationary hiding places that are protected from wind and rain, have wide lookout range, and are warmed up by sun...
The whole tiger territory that spreads out for tens of kilometers is regularly inspected and marked with urine, scratches, and marks on trees. Great knowledge of landscape allows the tiger to be a master of situation in everyday cases. That's why when human approaches, a tiger hears and sees him first. A tiger also takes necessary precautions.
However, there are some cases, when coming across human becomes a surprise. Maybe, a tiger saw a person first, but it's too late to move out, and the next several seconds they stare into each other's eyes...
June, 1959. Shandui. "We went to look around. While walking, we saw a killed baby moose in the forest opening that was still warm. Killed probably by a tiger. She scented us and left. And then, we saw her coming from the forest about 20-30 meters from us. We could even see her eyes and whiskers. We were looking at her and she was looking at us. Nobody had a gun. She slowly turned around and left too pity for a meat but not used to killing a man." (I. Samarkin).
The fact that tigers leave their kill is described by many hunters and foresters. Similar cases are presented by S. Kuchurenko (1973) and V. Zhivotchenko (1976). Kuchurenko reasonably notes that bears in similar cases act very aggressively.
Let's look through several pages of the diaries of preserve personnel...
March 3, 1973. Spring Sakhalinskii. "Under the towering rock where crows circled above, we saw a tiger near to the spring. He just came from the other side of the stream towards the rock, noticed us, and stopped. There were less than 40 meters between us. The tiger stood calmly looking at us. When we started moving backward towards the forest, he turned around and in two jumps disappeared in thickets. (V. Solov'ev and A. Cherdantsev).
October 31, 1973. 57th kilometer. "I noticed a tiger. I would not notice her if she would not roar. My hat accordingly raised up and 10 kilometers left to my house I flew like a bird." (I. Ivanov).
February 10, 1979. Kuruma river. "Poleschuk was walking about 10 meters ahead of me. He came out on ice and saw three tigers walking towards us. He got scared and started moving backwards. At that moment, I came out. When tigers saw us, they rushed to the right bank of the river with tigress in front and cubs as if unwillingly behind her. The sizes of their footprints were 13x11 with heel of 8 centimeters, and for cubs - 10x9 with heel of 6 centimeters". (V. Scherbonos).
June 28, 1979. Blagodatnoye. "The tiger came out to the road 10 meters from me and was looking at the worker who was walking about 100 meters ahead of me. Then, the tiger quickly turned around and lied down on the road... I shot from my gun into the sky. The tiger jumped from the road and went slowly towards the Ozernyi spring. He was about 70-80 centimeters high with the tail of about 1.5 meters. His color was somewhat dirty yellow like a clay on the road". (N. Burmistrov).
However, best of encounters were the following.
May 29, 1977. Yasnyi. "That spring day became very extraordinary thanks to one of those happy meetings that happen once in your life and therefore are remembered forever. At that day, first time in my 12 years of work in the preserve, I saw a tiger in his natural environment. That desired event happened very unexpectedly and unusually.
I left the ranger post at the end of the day and went to the nearest apiary. My business there was urgent, so I quickly walked along the trail following the river. I did not pay much attention to things around me. That trail, like anything else around the ranger post, was familiar to me to the little detail. I knew that after hiking this hill I would come to a thin oak stand, and I would be able to walk quicker. Here it is, covered with oak and young straight pine trees. The trail turns, turns again... The trail curves around huge almost rotten birch snag. At the bottom of it, there is thick little pine like a green small tent. I stepped over the log and stopped at once almost like something came across me... There, in front of me, about 2-3 meters away, also suddenly stopped ... the tiger!
He was also surprised by this meeting, and both of us stood still couple of steps apart with legs spread widely for walking. We were like tied by our eyes looking at each other... The tiger slowly lied on the ground while continuing watching me. He lay down and pulled in his paw. His head was almost on his paws. It even seemed like he is lying on his paws but he slowly and slightly moved his head up and down, almost trying to see me better...
To sneak out would be very hard - that was my very first impression from that meeting. Automatically, I looked up to see if lower branches are close to me. Then, I stopped behind the tree. The tiger made his move and also stopped. His massive head bowed to the ground was showing from behind the tree. "I see you! I see you, go away!" - I tried to make my voice more calm and mighty. I was very afraid to show him my fear. If that would come out, the beast would understand it too. After my shout, the tiger smoothly, like it was ice under his paws instead of the ground, walked behind the next tree. "I see you! I can see you! Go to..." - and I told him the direct address where I wanted to send him
... The tiger circled around me more than 10 times with the same watchfulness, from tree to tree, after regular phrases from my side. But suddenly something changed in his attitude: he is leaving. In any case, I can see his back. "Finally. It's time for that... But what is that? He had never left, there he is lying near to rhododendron".
He does not pay attention to my voice. He is not getting up, and he is not leaving. "And what should I do?"
At the same moment when I turned my sight away, I lost him out of my view. "There he was... Yea, and now he is lying there!" His capacity to be unnoticed in the opening amazed me so much that it even diminished my fear of the tiger laying not far from me. I decided to try it again. I moved my eyes away from the tiger and result is the
same. A short moment without looking at him is enough to make me wonder where he is. It's like a mystery picture for children where you need to find him among yellow leaves. "How does he fade just being under the shrub! But what is that? He is not under the shrub any more but in front of it!" Just now I noticed that motionless tiger had skin moving in waves on his shoulders... "He is crawling!" At that moment, I was filled with fear. Before that, I was almost sure that everything would be fine, and I would be proud to tell about meeting the tiger alone in taiga. That confidence was reassured by my previous experience of taiga traveling and meeting with almost all the animals
of coast taiga, and by stories of colleagues. But this tiger crawling towards me was breaking all my concepts of human and animal relationship...
I stopped being slow and smooth. I grabbed the tree and climbed towards the top quicker and quicker. I need to get to the first branches! I gripped the first limb, pulled myself up and stood up on my knees. I looked down. There was something fuzzy. Amazement and disbelief overwhelmed me. Was that really a tiger? When I overcame confusion in my thoughts, reasoning came back to me. I looked directly into his narrow almost sleepy eyes, and at the same time I felt another tree close to the trail. With the same caution, I slowly moved behind it. Then, I moved to another tree and stopped. I pulled the sleeve of my jacket and looked at my watch. It was quarter after seven. I decided to
go around the tiger and to come back to the ranger post. Moving slowly I moved to the next tree, and to the next again... At that moment, the tiger stood up. Almost like copying my movements, he also slowly made several steps along the trail, turned to my side of it, stepped behind the tree and stopped!
It's the very interesting characteristic of the animal: he stopped and hid behind oak tree. Only his head was seen from behind the trunk. He moved around and around but never stopped in the opening.
For some period of time, we looked at each other from behind trees. Then, I decided again to go around him and I slowly moved from tree to tree. The tiger went parallel to me. "What does he need?"
The forest edge was close. Further, I knew it for sure without even looking, there were very dense thickets of shrubs and understory. I made myself comfortable in the tree fork. I found a base for my hands and for my spirit.
The tiger was already under my tree. He was laying and staring at me. I did not have anything to chase him away. Why did not I get my gun? I did not even go far from the post. There were people and foresters with guns. Then, using all my voice power I screamed towards the post:
The tiger shivered from my scream and even turned his head in the direction of the ranger post.
"Zarapeen! There is a tiger! Zarapeen!"
Later the same evening Zarapeen told me that he heard screaming but he did not even think that it was meant for him, that it was asking for help. He thought that drunk fishermen were shouting in the evening, and he calmly started supper.
I was shouting for a long time until I was sure that it has been useless. "They could not hear me because of the river" - was my thought. "What can I do?" I have cigarettes, matches, and a notebook in my pocket and a knife on my belt. That's it. And there is a tiger under the tree... I stroke a match and threw it down. It blew out before it reached the ground. The second match did the same. Then, I ripped out a page from a notebook, crumpled it, fired and threw it down towards the tiger. The ball of fire drew a curve in the air and landed in a meter from the tiger. Leaves caught a fire from paper. Clear light spread on the dry grass in all the directions. The tiger got up, slowly moved 10-12 meters from the fire and lay down again. Fire started to grow. Smoke raised above it and flew toward treetops. Incoming wind broke the smoke stream and blew it toward the tiger. Then, he got up and left disappearing in shrub thickets. Fire became even stronger. It spread around quicker and wider. "There is a clean thin forest around but next to it are shrubs, dense thickets... Did the tiger go away? There is a fire below, and around it is a sacred taiga forest..." These thoughts jumped inside my head. Forest fire is worse than a tiger. I slipped down the tree and started to trample the fire. To be completely sure, I trampled under smoking leaves, and quickly run from tree to tree to the river. I did not even pull up my water boots and walked across the river. Then, I turned around.
Now, when I remember all that happened to me that day, I find that last picture in front of me was the most beautiful of what I saw during the last 40 minutes. At the top of the riverbank stood still a tiger!
I can see that picture before my eyes today. It would be nice to always meet a tiger like that. But at that day, I was in a hurry to lose him from my sight and get quicker to the ranger post. I walked along the riverbank without paying much attention to slippery rocks under the water. I did not want to climb the cliff and not being able to see the
annoying tiger. He disappeared in shrubs, and then appeared again on his riverside ahead of me.
I could see the ranger post through the trees.
"Zarapeen! Genka! Zarapeen!"
Zarapeen emerged in his sleepers to the porch. He saw me in the river and amazingly asked: "Who are you? What do you need?"
He did not recognize me. He did not recognize the partner with whom he worked for several years, walked along for hundred kilometers in taiga,
the partner who left the post just an hour ago...
"Bring the gun! There is a tiger!"
Zarapeen rushed through the door and quickly returned filling the gun. One shot! Another one! The tiger left. Left for good.
In a while, I had my dry clothes on. I was drinking tea and telling my excited friends about my first meeting with the tiger.
Next morning, three of us returned to the place where the tiger incident occurred. With great caution we were walking along the trail
looking around for footprints. There was the place where I first saw the tiger. It was easy to see the place where the tiger was lying on
last year foliage. At the distance of less than three wide steps of Zarapeen, there was distinct trench from suddenly stopping boot heel.
And there was a black circle from burned leaves under the three and footprints of the tiger guarding me. There were lots of them. The
shortest radius around the tree was 9 meters, and the longest - 11 meters." (V. Solomatin).
May 8, 1982. Ust'-Shandui. "Around 8 o'clock in the evening, I suddenly remembered that I need to bring pipes from the road for the stove. My
friend Tolik went across the river in his swamp boots. I had keds on, so I went across the bridge. The shortest way to the pipes is about 400
meters. When I was approaching Tolik, who stood on the trail and waited for me, we heard some noise behind. Like a stone fell. The river was
roaring nearby. Besides, my hearing was not that well. Yet, I turned around ... there was a tiger about three steps behind me. He jumped from uphill to the trail and turned around to us. His front legs were half bent like he was getting ready to pounce. However, he was not roaring or grinning. I remembered that later, but at first I was
petrified. Maybe 2-3 seconds we looked into each other eyes. Then, I don't know why, I spread my arms wide like I wanted to catch or to choke him, and I loudly swore.
- Are you a fool? Get out of here! Leave no trace and get out! I have not met you for 12 years and I don't want to see you for as much long!
Something like that. My yell was angry and loud. I was noisy like a bargaining trader. Then, the tiger showed his teeth. His upper lip with whiskers curled to the side. He roared quietly, gently jumped up and left, and disappeared in several effortless jumps.
Thanks God, my verbal eruption stopped and my heart rate almost returned to normal. For some reason, I also jumped uphill, got out my knife and shook it in my hand towards the direction where the tiger went. Suddenly I remembered that somewhere nearby was Tolik. I called his name. When he run to me with the question "Who? Deer?", the tiger was crossing the stream. Only then, we were able to see the tiger better. He was large tiger of pale red-gray color with black but not bright lines although his head had brighter lines. On the other bank of the stream, the tiger turned and looked at us. Then, he crossed the road that was five meters away from there, looked at us again and
walked to the forest.
How could the tiger appear behind me? I could not have missed him if he was near to the trail. There were not many shrubs around and grass was still not too tall. Probably, he heard somebody walking along the river and he decided to check it out. He run, he jumped to the trail and ...probably he was also petrified when he saw instead of a deer a scarecrow with arms spread wide and screaming aloud like somebody was killing him. Besides, that scarecrow was not watching his mouth.
After that incident, I nervously turned with any whisper." (E.Smirnov).
February 17, 1984. Golubichnaya Bay. "At 10 o'clock in the morning, I saw through the window a moving dot. Through the spyglass I saw a
tiger. I grabbed my camera and started sneaking behind the ridge along the sea. About 85 meters from the tiger, I saw a whole family. Tigress and two cubs were lying in sunlight. One tiger was lying with his face towards me, two others with their backs. I made two shots when a cub noticed me and run into the forest. I made another shot. Two other tigers turned their faces towards me but they did not notice me right away. Then, tigress got up and slowly moved into my direction. I had to pull up stakes." (I. Petukhov).
February 18, 1984. Same place. "Coming back from my route along the high sea shore, I suddenly saw a tiger cub on the shore about 25 meters away. The cub was looking at me but with no fear. I realized that he was from yesterday's family. I quickly jumped onto the first larch. Near to the sea, larches are about 1-2 meters high... Suddenly, I heard a loud roar. Tigress jumped from behind the ridge, walked around the tree and sat down about 5 meters from it. I fired a signal light. Tigress jumped aside. The second cub run nearby and the whole family disappeared in thickets. For a while I set in the tree smoking. Then, I walked down to the sea, looked at leftovers of killed elk, and hiked to the house." (I. Petrov).
October 11, 1984. Abrek. "I was picking acorns in Vol'ernyi canyon. I heard some noise, and then I saw a tiger in hazel thickets about 25 meters away. He stood and looked at me. Then, he lay down. His position was something like stalking. I kept on picking acorns walking towards the tiger. We watched each other. When I came as close as 15 meters, the tiger got up and walked uphill. He marked the oak tree and slowly disappeared in shrubs." (O. Zaumyslova).
December 15, 1985. Terney. "On the pass leading to Ivanovskii, we finished sawing firewood. In the dusk, we were packing our belongings. I sent my son to get a gas container. About 30 meters downhill the car, he started screaming and run. From another side of the car the tiger was running behind him. My partner and me started yelling. The tiger stopped and lay down. I threw a stick into him. He jumped about 10 meters away and lay down again. Then, he started walking from side to side while we were packing in a hurry. When we turned the car lights on, the tiger walked away. We were able to breathe freely and left home." (A. Astaf'ev).
Similar tiger incidents take place without a will of the man or the tiger (somewhat the opposite), and more often by the will of Sir Luck. Without any doubt, the tiger hears, sees, and smells human sooner. He does not want to meet humans more than we want to meet him. That's why any accident becomes very unusual case. The results of it can not be predicted. But fact is a fact. During the last 10 years, there were more than hundred accidental encounters between people and tigers in the preserve. In all the cases, they were resolved in a peaceful manner. In some cases, there were less than 2-3 jumps for the tiger to reach an unarmed person...
Like cat and dog
There are many legends, anecdotes, tales, and disagreements about dogs and cats. The fact is, if two live like "dog and cat", don't wait for peace. The same situation is with tigers and dogs. Below, you will see many examples when the tiger forgetting about his inborn cautiousness and unwillingness to meet a man and especially humans with guns, forgetting about everything in the world will rush asking for trouble to kill the dog. Why does he need the dog? Meat? The dog for him is like for us a single dumpling. In many cases the tiger will not even eat a dog. What is the problem than?
Przheval'skii wrote that tigers adore the taste of dogs and prefer them to any other food. Maybe dog meat has unique taste for them, he wrote. But maybe there is a century-long hostility of cat species to dogs.
Kucherenko has similar opinion: "The tiger has weakness toward dogs. He prefers them to any other prey. Facts show that the tiger might leave fresh killed boar and will follow the dog to the house with hunters inside. Tigers eat dog meet with big pleasure. Udegei tribes say that the tiger who ate a dog will walk for days as if he was drunk tumbling and playing. So, everybody has his own weaknesses."
One day we decided to count how many dogs owned by our foresters were eaten by tigers. Simple calculations showed that only during the last 5 years collect the tariff in amount of 3-5 dogs per year. The similar situation is observed in nearby apiaries and hunting cabins. It's impossible to reserve enough! Besides, for a forest ranger who is a
hunter at the same time the dog is not only a "friend of a human" but also a help.
There is just one excuse for a tiger. By the rules of the preserve, it is not allowed to walk there with a dog. The exception is made for dogs kept on leash near to ranger posts. Most likely this mutual hate between tigers and dogs has deep evolution roots. It is unlikely something can be changed. Is there a need in it? Tigers do not touch the dogs of good owners in the preserve. On hunting grounds, things are different. Many dogs are even afraid of tiger's tracks...
Now, let's look through some diaries.
December 22, 1975. The cabin on the Inokov brook. "In the middle of the night, the tiger came to the cabin as close as 17 meters. Two dogs were barking at him. We could see it very well in moonlight. The animal was approaching them stopping from time to time. The tiger was very big. His paw was 15x14 and heel - 10 centimeters. He retreated into thickets when we pointed a flashlight at him through the window." (V.Kostoglod, N. Perelygin).
Beekeeper of Terney enterprise F. Novozhilov told us that in the beginning of July 1976 at 11 at night, the tiger grabbed the dog, broke the chain, and went with the dog towards the road. When the beekeeper who heard the noise illuminated the tiger with flashlight, the tiger dropped the dog's body and left. That tiger first appeared near to the
apiary in 1973 when he killed two dogs, and in 1974 - one more dog.
(to be continued)Translated from Russian by Olga Zyrina and A.Shevlakov .
Some photos from National Geographic magazine, February 1997, by Mark Moritsh.