Cryptozoology reports of a huge tiger living in the frozen wilderness of Alaska have been around for years. Is it really a tiger, or some other cryptid, unknown to science? CryptoVille investigates this monster-sized mystery and grabs this cryptid tiger by the tale, I mean tail!
The Siberian Tiger (panther tigris altaica), also known as the Amur tiger, is well known to science. It’s the largest tiger species in the world. Unfortunately, these beautiful stately animals are critically endangered.
The Siberian tigers live primarily in Eastern Russia with some making their way into China and North Korea. One of the interesting things about these tigers is that they live in harsh Northern climates. They are adapted to put up with cold temperatures and lots of snow. So does that mean they could survive in Alaska? Let’s see.
Science tells us that these creatures can be fierce but they also tend to avoid humans. Living in such harsh and cold conditions helps them to avoid humanity who tend to visit those areas far less frequently than other places. There have been some cases when tigers turned into maneaters, but if memory serves, I think that was in India.
One report I read stated that their favorite prey were red deer. Another said that they also eat elk and wild boar. (Taxidermy exhibit left between Siberian tiger and brown bear from Vladivostok Museum.)
In the early 90s, scientists were able to tag and monitor eleven tigers for a year and a half. What they found was the tigers far and away preferred to follow the red deer around, and didn’t pay much attention to wild pigs, elk, moose, or bear. That said, another study, per Wiki, found that when all sizes of prey animals are in the area, the tigers will go after the largest among them. Tigers have been known to kill and eat adult moose as well as bears weighing in excess of 990 lbs (450 kg).
So what does this mean for an Alaska tiger, if one exists? Well, the problem is red deer no longer live in Alaska. In fact no deer live in Alaska with the exception of a few along the Southern region, south of Juneau. So if they are the primary food source for Siberian/Amur tigers, we’ve got a problem.
Another interesting fact that science tells us: where tigers are present, wolf numbers drop dramatically. Now if it’s one thing that Alaska does have, it is wolves. So their presence would indicate the absence of tigers.
Siberian/Amur tigers grow between 8 and 10.5 feet long. They used to grow bigger but hunters have killed off the really big ones. Nowadays tigers are lucky to survive into adulthood for very long because hunters are still trying to kill them.
Anyway, the male can weigh between 450 – 675 pounds while the females weigh between 200 – 350 pounds. In the wild they generally live to be 10 – 15 years old. But in captivity, they can live up to 22 years and beyond.
The color of these tigers ranges from reddish-orange to a reddish-brown color. As you would expect, they have long vertical stripes on their sides.
These animals have a winter coat and a summer coat, so there are color variations according to season. I’ve read where they “lighten up” in winter, presumably to blend in better with the snow.
In a book review called Tiger Tales, Eric Morrison quotes author Alexander Dolitsky as saying, “The significance of the tiger to the cultures of the Russian Far East is comparable to the importance that many animals have in the cultures of the indigenous people of Alaska and the Arctic regions. It is a courageous character, so you will find the tiger character in the mythology and the legends and folktales of these people that see the tiger with admiration. It’s the same as some Native people see the wolf, for example, with admiration as well.”
If you ever take a cruise along the Inside Passage of Alaska, you may be surprised to see how much of a Russian influence is in the area. I visited there years ago and was quite surprised by it. So it leaves me wondering if this admiration for the tiger has just overflowed into the psyche of the Alaskan people via the Russian influence.
I wonder if knowing about a tiger that lives in the snowbound forests of Siberia may make one think that it probably lives in Alaska as well. As we all know, many creatures crossed the land bridge from Russia to Alaska a long time ago. Could the tigers have come through as well?
One source I read (adventure-tigers.com) said outright that Siberian tigers were present in America in the state of Alaska about 100,000 years ago. They make this claim by pointing to the fossil record. (Picture right shows size differential between a Siberian tiger and a man.)
The scientist who discovered this data is Sandra J. Herrington who is/was associated with the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, Overland Park. Here’s what she found out.
I think we all know that when the Bering Land Bridge formed during various ice ages, it allowed animals from Asia to migrate over to the area now known as Alaska. This bridge was made up of what scientists call “steppe tundra habitat.” These kinds of areas have little to no places to hide.
That’s our first problem. Tigers only live in areas where they can be hidden at all times. They abhor being out in plain sight. Ms. Herrington quotes another scientist (Hopkins from a report issued in 1982) who thought the tundra may have included some areas that were wooded. The question then remains, was it wooded enough to satisfy the tigers’ need to hide?
Ms. Herrington says that they have fossil remains of lions (Panthera atrox) from that area. Could some of them be tiger fossils mistaken for lion fossils? The question arises because apparently it’s hard to tell the difference between a modern lion skeleton and that of a tiger, much less those of ancient fossilized lions and tigers.
Ms. Herrington figured out a reliable way to distinguish between the two. This wonderful discovery led to the knowledge that tigers at least got as far as the Eastern Bering land bridge (Beringia as science calls it) during the Wisconsin glacial period (85,000 – 11,000 years ago).
She writes, “These results suggest that other large fossil Panthera may have been misidentified, and additional evaluation may further increase the range of fossil tigers.”
Interestingly, the fossil tigers found in Beringia were the same size as modern day tigers.
Based on my research, it seems unlikely that there are surviving tigers in Alaska today mainly because their favorite food source is missing (red deer) and the presence of wolves who tend to avoid areas with tigers.
That said, Alaska is so huge, vast, and unexplored, who can really say what’s lurking in all the hidden places of that landscape? I’d like to give the tigers a fighting chance. So I’ll say:
“However unlikely it is, there may be a chance that some tigers exist in Alaska.”
What do you think?