One of Varya's cubs captured by camera trap in Sikhote-Alin Reserve
In early September 2012, cubs were born to Varvara, one of the tigresses living in the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve (SABR). We knew this because Varvara had been tracked using a GPS collar since October 2011 under a joint monitoring program conducted by SABR and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Based on her GPS locations, it was clear that Varvara confined her cubs to a small area in a remote corner of the reserve during the first two months following birth. Only when the cubs became stronger and began tasting meat did she begin taking them with her, and leading them to the ungulates she had killed. In early December, after the first snowfall, researchers were able to look at their tracks in the snow and determined that Varvara had three cubs. And every once in a while, male tracks were found near those of Varvara and the cubs. These belonged to Murzik, which meant he was the father.
To obtain as much information about the life of this family as possible, camera and video traps were set up. Scientists were able to regularly obtain pictures of Varvara and Murzik, but the cubs remained unseen. Varvara is a very cautious mother and her cubs were carefully guarded from prying eyes. The first winter is a serious test for cubs born in autumn. But despite all the dangers, all three of Varvara’s cubs made it through (as evidenced by regular encounters with their tracks in the snow).
Scientists tried in vain to obtain camera traps of the cubs all summer: Varvara largely kept her cubs off the main trails where the risk of encountering other large predators (e.g., bears and wolves) was greatest . And only at the beginning of November, when the cubs were 14 months old, did one of the camera traps finally get lucky. The images only captured two of the cubs, but tracks in the sand nearby showed that all three were alive and well! Images captured the following day showed that Murzik was following his family. We can confidently say that everything is great with the Murziks!
Female tiger Varya and her cub (on the right in the darkness, only eyes are seen)
Male tiger Murzik - the father of Varya's cubs