Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, prowl not Siberian taiga but the chilly forests of eastern Russia. On the brink of extinction and numbering just a few dozen during the mid-20th century, some 400 to 500 of these cats live today in Russia, with a few more in China and possibly North Korea.
This subspecies’ historical comeback is a remarkable conservation success story that gives some hope for the future of all wild tigers. A female tiger can have 15 cubs over a lifetime and there is still some room for healthy populations to roam—but only if humans can curb poaching and make a commitment to let them live.
That may be easiest to achieve in the Amur tiger’s vast northern woodlands, which offer fewer human residents and more space to be wild. In fact the Russian Far East is home to the biggest unfragmented tiger habitat left in the world.
The tigers in this vast realm grow large as well, feeding on deer and boar to stretch nearly 11 feet long and topping the scales at 660 pounds.
Recent genetic studies suggest that the extinct Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata), last seen in the 1970s, was in fact the same subspecies as the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica).
If so, this same subspecies stretched across a vast area from the Russian Far East, west through the forests lying north of Mongolia’s steppes, and into modern Turkey and Iran.