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Hunting Methods of Tigers

Tigers often ambush their prey as other cats do, overpowering their prey from any angle, using their body size and strength to knock prey off balance. Once prone, the tiger bites the back of the neck, often breaking the prey's spinal cord piercing the windpipe or severing the jugular vein or carotid artery. For large prey, a bite to the throat is preferred. After biting, the tiger then uses its muscled forelimbs to hold onto the prey, bringing it to the ground. The tiger remains latched onto the neck until its prey dies.Powerful swimmers, tigers are known to kill prey while swimming. Some tigers have even ambushed boats for the fishermen on board or their catches of fish.

In India hog deer, chital, barking deer, sambar, nilgai and wild boar are the favourite prey though tigers will also kill jungle ox and even young elephants and rhino of up to 450kgs in weight. Tigers will seek out porcupines even though these prickly creatures have a nasty habit of backing into a pursuer in order to drive in their spines. Tigers tend to hunt between dusk and dawn. They are less active during the day and may lie satiated in the shade or in a pool near the remains of a kill.Tigers often cover an unfinished meal with soil and leaves and return to it later.

The majority of tigers never hunt humans except in desperation. Probably only 3 or 4 tigers out of every 1000 tigers kill a person as prey in their lifetimes. The usual man-eater is an injured or ill tiger which can no longer catch its usual prey and must resort to a smaller, slower target. Like most other large predators they generally recognize humans as unsuitable prey because of the danger of being hunted by a predator themselves (a human possessing spears or firearms). The Sundarbans mangrove swamps of Bengal have had a higher incidence of man-eaters, where some healthy tigers have been known to hunt humans as prey.In the wild, tigers can leap as high as 5 m and as far as 9-10 m, making them one of the highest-jumping mammals (just slightly behind cougars in jumping ability).

They have been reported to carry domestic livestock weighing 50 kg while easily jumping over fences 2 m high. Their forelimbs, massive and heavily muscled, are used to hold tightly onto the prey and to avoid being dislodged, especially by large prey such as gaurs. Gaurs and Water Buffalo weighing over a ton have been killed by tigers weighing about a sixth as much. A single tremendous blow of the paw can kill a full-grown wolf or human or can heavily injure a 150 kg Sambar deer.

Sights and sound rather than scent are used to locate prey.Tigers are too large and too heavy to run for long distances and therefore must patiently stalk their prey until they are close enough to make a final lunge for a neck.Effective camouflage is essential and in patches of sunshine and shade a motionless tiger is pratically invisible. Despite being one of the most feared of the world's predators, tigers are often unsuccessful in catching their prey.Prey species have acute hearing and many run faster than a tiger.If the tiger fails in an hunting attempt it must move to another area or wait until the forest becomes calm again.

Tiger behaviour is flexible and the choice of prey as well as the technique for catching it will be influenced by how plentiful the prey is and how easily it is caught. Tigers in area where the vegetation is less dense are more likely to hunt large prey cooperatively and to share their kill.Rather than a strict hierarchy it seems that the tiger that makes the kill always gets the first meal even if the other tigers present are larger.

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