November 4, 2015
- as seen by -Jonathan C. Slaght
Tigers and wolves in Russia have an uncomplicated relationship: they simply don’t get along.
This was not always understood, as the first study to examine both populations in the southern Russian Far East found equilibrium, with the predators seeming to occupy the same forests without killing each other off.
In retrospect, however, it became clear that this single snapshot of their relationship did not reveal the full story. At the time of that analysis, Amur tigers were rebounding from a historical population low. As tigers reoccupied forests long abandoned they then displaced the wolves, either by killing them or driving them out.
Researchers have recently been able to observe this dynamic firsthand in two different parts of tiger range.
First, in the Pri-Amur region, where Amur tigers have been absent for half a century. Here, tigers are now being released to recolonize former habitat, and one of these tigers killed and ate two wolves during her first winter in the wild. If tigers are successful at regaining a foothold in the Pri-Amur, wolves might disappear from the region.
Second, in the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve to the south, where a resident female tiger died amidst an outbreak of canine distemper virus in 2010 and was replaced by a pair of wolves soon thereafter. Things did not end well for these canids, however. One succumbed to canine distemper itself, and another was last seen running across a road a few years later.
Being chased by a tiger.