Siberian Tiger Project specialists Nikolai Rybin and Ivan Seryodkin joined specialists from the Primorsky Krai Wildlife Management Department to help resolve the winter season’s first tiger-human conflict situation, involving a tigress killing dogs in a small village in western Primorye.
At the request of the Primorsky Krai Wildlife Management Department, WCS staff arrived to the scene of the conflict in late November, and were able to establish that the tigress, unable to find game in the forest, had killed at lease 8 village dogs in the course of the previous three weeks in order to feed herself and her 3 six-month-old cubs. Specialists decided to attempt to scare off the tigers, and also set traps for the tigress to capture her, fit her with a radio-collar, and then follow her movements in the future, in order to be prepared if she were to again appear close to human settlements.
In early December red deer, roe deer and wild boar appeared in the area, and the tigress left the vicinity of the village and killed a wild boar. WCS specialists continued to track her by following her tracks in the snow for several more days to ensure she had left the area.
Considering that none of the tigers were wounded, sick or fatigued, and that the tigress was able to kill wild ungulates on her own, specialists were able to determine that the cause of the conflict was lack of food in the forest. Village dogs were all that the tigress had been able to find in order to feed herself and her family.
Human-tiger conflicts generally fall into two categories: attacks on people and predation on domestic animals. For a number of reasons, tiger-human conflict situations in the Russian Far East arise most frequently in the winter. At this time of year there is often less game in the forest, due to both natural winter conditions and hunting for ungulates. Since winter is also hunting season, there are usually more people in the forest, increasing the chance of encounters between tigers and humans. For this reason, winter is also the time of year when tigers have the highest chance of being wounded during accidental encounters or by poachers – and most tigers that attack people are wounded tigers.
Siberian Tiger Project specialists have assisted the Russian government in resolution of tiger-human conflicts since 1999. Before this time, conflict situations were resolved by simply killing the tiger, and cumulatively, these deaths represented a significant mortality factor. WCS involvement in addressing tiger-human conflicts has resulted in improved capacity to alleviate problem situations through aversive conditioning and translocation of problem tigers, as well as in reduced human-caused mortality and improved safety of local citizens.