A female tiger scent marks a bush in Hunchun Nature Reserve, China, in June 2013.
This behaviour strongly suggests that she is a resident.Photograph (c) WCS China
It has usually been assumed that the Amur tigers seen in Hunchun Nature Reserve and adjacent forests are mostly (if not entirely) transient males visiting from Russia; those that have the majority of their home ranges across the border, and periodically enter into China. The first indication otherwise came in winter 2012, when staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) China Program found tracks of what appeared to be an adult female and a cub in Hunchun.
On June 6th, 2013, as part of a camera trap study supported by ALTA, WCS China staff recorded video footage of an adult female tiger (possibly the same female detected in winter 2012) scent marking a bush. Since such behaviour is usually performed by territorial adults, we now have strong evidence that this particular female is a resident, not a transient.
While part of her home range may still include Russia, it is clear that Hunchun Nature Reserve represents an important part of her territory. The combination of these observations (cubs tracks, scent marking) signify a landmark event, as we now have firm evidence that at least one adult, breeding female is residing in Hunchun Nature Reserve.
The same camera trap also recorded a male tiger – also possibly a resident – a few weeks later. We are close to reach an important milestone in the recovery of tigers in China: no longer are they only transient males passing through this reserve, instead we now have a resident family that hopefully will start the recovery of a larger tiger population in northeast China.