The Deadly Accurate Hunting Habits of the Tiger
Posted: Jul 11, 2016
Today’s Tiger watching tours take participants into prime habitat to encounter this iconic apex predator in its natural Indian sub-continental habitat – a world in which it is undisputed king. On night drives, Tiger watching enthusiasts may, on occasion, be afforded the privileged opportunity to observe this magnificent animal on the hunt.
An Apex Hunter
As an apex predator, the big cat has nothing to fear in the animal kingdom, and the primary threat to its survival comes from human poaching and loss of habitat. Its diet is wide and varied, preferring mainly medium and larger sized mammals, including deer, wild boar and water buffalo, right through to high level predators like pythons, crocodiles and even Leopards. It is the only animal to hunt and take on the porcupine, and will do so sometimes to its own detriment – quills can become embedded in its paws and face and cause problems for feeding and hunting.
Skill, Sleuth and Precision
The big cat is a solitary and primarily nocturnal hunter (although it's been known to hunt in daylight hours), and is what's known as a 'concealment and ambush' predator. It has excellent night vision and can stalk its prey exhaustively, before pouncing on the unsuspecting victim from behind.
The Tiger has great patience when on the hunt. Once it's identified its prey, it approaches slowly from downwind, then circles for prolonged periods to ensure the all-important element of surprise. It is also extremely precise, constantly moving its head to gauge depth, distance and angle as it approaches.
While the aim is to get in as close as possible, the big cat has the ability to leap more than 20 feet in one bound, and can move lightning fast over a short area – up to 65km/h. When it finally makes the pounce and, ultimately, the almost-certain instant kill, it does so in deadly silence – prey never even knowing what hit it.
If the prey does get wind of the impending danger, the big cat will usually abandon the hunt rather than engage in chase or battle.
After leaping onto the prey, death is usually by bite to the throat or back of the neck – severing the spinal cord and piercing the windpipe. For larger quarry, like water buffalos, the big cat will attach itself to the victim's throat and hold on with its front legs until the animal dies of strangulation. In some cases, although rarely, they have been known to kill prey with a powerful swipe of their front paw.
Strength and Stamina
Once they've made the kill, the big cat will most often drag its quarry into deep cover before feeding in private – an impressive feat that requires great physical strength. They will gorge themselves on the carcass, and are able to digest up to 35kg of meat in one sitting.
Adult males will quite often go up to two weeks without eating after a large feed, and while they may occasionally challenge for other predators' prey or feed on carrion, they prefer to do their own hunting.
Tiger watching tours enable wildlife lovers to get closer than ever before possible to observe this magnificent animal in the wild, and it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Tiger watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
Writer and Online Marketing Manager in London.