Do tigers mark their territory?

Yes, tigers mark their territory like any other cat species including the domestic cat. One way they mark territory is to desposit scent from glands on their cheeks as you can see in the video. They reach up to a tree or a rock and rub their cheeks against the object. 

This is Boris, a Siberian tiger released into the wild by Putin. Boris has hundreds of square miles in which to roam with very little if no competition due to the scarcity of Siberian tigers.

Land tenure is part of the social system of the tiger. Both male and females communicate with a combination of scent marks, visual signals and vocalisations. Scent marks are probably the most important. "Marking fluid" is deposited. It is a musky liquid. It is often mixed with urine and sprayed backward onto upright objects. We see domestic cats doing the same thing.

Scent may be deposited on faeces from the anal glands. The liquid secreted by these lands is similar to that in their urine. And, as you can see in the video (if it works!) tigers also rub the head and their cheeks on objects that have been sprayed to enlarge the field of their scent or odour.

Boris a Siberian tiger scent marks a tree with cheel glands
Boris a Siberian tiger scent marks a tree with cheel glands. Screeshot.

In addition they scrape sometimes by raking the ground with their hind feet creating claw marks. Sometimes feces are left in conspicuous places. The scent marks are deposited along a network of often used travel routes to tell others that the area is occupied or being used. They don't preclude the area being occupied by other tigers but they announce that they are around. They are a form of calling card.

Apparently some adult tigers rarely sent-mark. This implies that they are not territory holders. This confirms that scent marking is about telling others that a tiger has taken occupation of a certain area. They sent mark frequently.

Tigers sent mark intensively when they are establishing a territory. One tiger in India, a three years old and female, visited a 500-metre stretch of boundary eight times per month over a four-month period. During this time she sprayed an average of 49 trees per month. 

Because scent fades it needs to be renewed. The fading of scent also provides information to another tiger who pick up the scent. They will know when the Tiger that deposited the scent was there. Tigers renew it roughly every three weeks. This implies that it lasts for about three weeks.

In a study in India, in Chitwan, both female and male tigers visited all areas of their home ranges (their territory) at intervals of a few days to 2 weeks. If the scent is not topped up for about a month another tiger may move into the vacant area.

In another study, a male tiger expanded his territory to one which was twice as large as the previous home range and he still visited all parts of it every two weeks.. He was reinforcing his ownership of the area in addition to finding food and checking on the reproductive condition of females.

Scent marking communicates a great deal of information and is used in a variety of spatial and social contexts. Some scent marking provides a variety of social functions while others have a particular function. It is not entirely clear even to the experts as to what they mean except that is concerns social organisation.


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