When do tigers become independent?

D. Smith in his work: "The role of dispersal in structuring the Chitwan tiger population" (1993) found that young tigers became independent of their mothers at seventeen to twenty-four months of age. They continued to hunt within the natal range (the home range of their mother effectively). 

When do tigers become independent?
When do tigers become independent? 17-24 months of age. Image: MikeB

This allows them to hone their hunting skills in relative safety. After doing this for a few months the young tigers 'dispersed' (left) from the natal range to find their own range at between 18-24 months of age.

Male cubs learn to kill on their own and become independent earlier than females.

By 15 months of age males often leave their mother for several days at a time to test independence. Females stay with their mother for longer.

A sister and brother, both 18 months old, were watched for their behavior at this stage of their development. 

The male weighing 350 pounds began to wander outside of his mother's range and within a month he was covering an area of 18 square miles within his father's range.

His sister was more cautious, staying with the boundaries of her mother's 8-square-mile range for another 6 months before dispersing.

Dispersal is a dangerous time for these newly independent tigers.

Further reference: Wild Cats of the World by the Sunquists.


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