Eyeing the tiger: The dos and don’ts of meeting Russia’s big cats
While it may seem surprising to some, meeting an Amur tiger, Asia's largest predator, is not unusual for the residents of the Russian Far East. In 2014, an Amur tiger even appeared on a crowded beach in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk. The beach-goers froze in shock – and the tiger eventually went away.
RBTH spoke to Vladivostok-based tiger expert Sergei Aramilev to find out how to avoid such an event and what to do if it does occur to you. The tips apply to any large predatory animal that can be encountered in the wild.
1. This may seem like a fairly obvious statement, but you can't take away the tiger's food – otherwise you risk becoming its next meal.
2. Do not try running away from the animal: Tigers are very curious by nature, so it will start following you. Besides, it's not like you can outrun it anyway – it's the fastest forest animal.
3. Just like with other predators, you can't look a tiger directly in the eye – it scares them and may provoke an attack.
4. On the chance you meet a cub – no petting! Its mother is nearby, and a tigress with cubs is much more dangerous than even a wounded tiger.
5. Don't try shooting a tiger. First and foremost, trying to harm a tiger is a felony in Russia. Secondly, you are unlikely to kill it, but will definitely attract attention instead. So shooting tigers is dangerous too.
6. In case you go ahead and shoot a tiger, wounding it (which, again, is considered attempted murder in Russia), or have found a wounded animal, do not try to help it. If it was harmed by a human, the predator might try avenging itself. Leave the area and call the police – they will contact a special wildlife encounters team.
7. Do not follow a tiger – intentionally or not. If during a hike in the Far East taiga forests you keep seeing what look like tiger footprints, it is better to change direction. Tigers do not appreciate unwanted attention, and the animal might return to see just who is following it.
8. If you have a dog with you, keep it on a leash. If it encounters a tiger and tries running away from it, it may lead the predator straight to you.
And, in case it does happen, the dos:
1. If there are any signs of a tiger nearby – a fresh footprint, or a roar – turn back and try leaving the area. If this occurs near a populated location, call the police – they'll know what to do.
2. If you can actually see a tiger, stop at once and wait for it to go away. Tigers usually go out of their way to avoid humans, so most encounters, if they do happen, usually don't last more than several seconds.
3. Try increasing your size visually to seem larger than you and the tiger are – for instance, raise your backpack above your head. If there are other people with you, hug – you will look like one large entity in the tiger's eyes.
4. Speak to the tiger in a loud and calm voice.
5. Tigers are scared of arc flashes and open fire, so if you happen to have a flare, and the tiger is closer than 15 meters away from you, light it up (the flare, not the tiger).
6. If you have something you can throw, do not try hitting the tiger, as it may think you are trying to attack. Rather, aim at the gap between you and the animal.
7. Loud noises that cannot be encountered in nature – such as the grinding of metal against metal – scare tigers away. Clapping won't help, as it can be encountered in nature.
8. If you are wondering who you are going to call if there is a tiger – call the police, the Russian emergency services or hunting authorities; they will in turn contact the wildlife encounters team. To reach the emergency services in Russia, call 112.
These tips will prove helpful for encounters with any large predator.