Cattle Eaters and Man Eaters
Even in the area of prey abundance the tiger has to work hard for its food since all its prey species have highly evolved system of self-presentation which the tiger must beat. The ungulates the hoofed herbivores. Which constitute the main food of the tiger have a highly developed sense of smell and reasonably keen sense of sight and sound. Whether living singly ( as the sambhar do ) or in heard ( like the chital, Nilgai , and gaur ) they are constantly vigilant as they move forage or rest. Herd security and leadership is provided by the matriarchs who keep a close watch while the herd is foraging or resting. They constantly shift their muzzle to face the breeze in order to catch scents and funnel their ears in different directions to catch sound. On apprehension of danger the first alarm is signaled by stamping a forefoot. If on further assessment, the danger seem real and imminent a vocal alarm is sounded. Finally the matriarch provides the lead and the herd drifts, scampers or bolts. Different species of deer have their distinctive alarm call which are heeded by all the pray species. Langur and monkey from their superior position on trees also constantly observe and notify the presence and movement of predators by calling out in alarm. In order to beat their vigilance the tiger take to stalking behind cover treading silently. It approaches its quarry against the direction of the breeze so as to avoid detection by smell.
A young tigress once set on a high rock in a clearing in a sal forest for over half an hour. Hearing the matting call of a chital stag, it become alert and sensed the direction of the call by funnelling its ear, but did not move. When the call was repeated after a couple of minutes it gently got down from the rock and moved very slowly towards the chital which were about a hundred yard away her movement could be discerned only from a slight quivering of the bush. The stag kept calling intermittently. The tigress took 35 minute to come within 20 yard of the small chital herd. Then in a split second in a couple of lightning leaps she pounced on the stag killed it instantly and dragged it further into the bush
On yet another occasion a limping tigress was offered a tethered buffalo calf to help her tide over her temporary disability. The buffalo walked to within 266 feet of the tigress being herded there by three elephants. It was then tethered to a bush in full view of the tigress the buffalo however remained ignorant of the tiger presence. As soon as the elephants the park staff moved away the tiger who was already on sharp alert moved in an out flanking stalk talking cover of shrubs and grass clumps. Her movement observed from elephant back had to be seen to be believed stretching her body in a low posture her advance was in the slowest possible slow motion carefully taken silent measured strides, zig Ėsagging so as to remain in cover those 60 yard and when she came to within about 15 yard she waited for almost two minute behind a grass clump the buffalo still oblivious of the tigress presence. Then in a lightning outburst she was on the buffalo neck burying her sharp long canines into it The buffalo could not even emit a shriek and fell to the ground under the weight of the tigress. She clung to the poor quarry for well over two minute until all movement ceased and the buffalo died of suffocation. The tigress herself was exhausted. She sat painting beside the kill for half an hour went to take a drink of water and began to feed only an hour later.
tiger usually takes its quarry from behind laying its chest on the back of the animal grabbing the neck in its canines, sometimes bracing a forearm on the forelimb of the quarry and trying to pull it down by their combined weight. As they pray falters and falls the tiger usually gives an upward jerk to the neck and is sometimes able to break the spinal cord, killing the pray instantly. Alternatively a common method is to keep the prey pressed under its weight and hold onto its trachea, preventing breathing. Even experienced hunters having often seen tigers in the posture believe the tiger to be sucking the blood of its victim. This cannot be true because its long canines and short lips do not allow the tiger and the most other feline and canid predators to create a vacuum in their mouth a enable then to suck It is for this reason that all cats and dogs even to drink water have to lick and lap .
The Ranthambore National Park tigerís formidable and sharp retractile claws play a significant role in capturing and holding on to its quarry. A mighty swipe of the forearm is sometimes used to stop a fleeting animal or to kill very small prey like monkey or peafowl. The tiger start feeding from the rump and hind legs and as the stomach cavity of its kill is opened by a neat surgical operation the tiger remove the intestines and the stomach and then feed on the fleshy organs in the cavity its does not feed on the rumen and the viscera. Its rasping tongue enables it to remove flesh from the large bones and proves useful in clean and complete utilization of the food secured. Depending on the size of its kill the tiger may feed on it for four to five days. Without taking note of the stink of the putrefying meat. By the end, it may have fed on all the flesh small bones skin and hair. As a matter of fact the hair acts as roughage and help to digestion.
The tigerís choice of quarry is hardly by species it is rather by size the bigger the batter with very large prey e.g. the gaur on the buffalo the tiger goes for sub adults. When a mother training her cubs regardless of size many monkeys and langur are killed the only form on communal hunting seen among tiger. Tigers are powerful swimmers and are in full command in the difficult tidal-swamp and mangrove habitat of the sundarbans where they feed a lot on fish sea- turtles and water monitors in addition to chital and wild pig.
Occasionally the tiger gets a windfall. Once in Kanha, a massive gaur bull easily more than a ton in weight became sedentary, lounging around a water pool in a dry stream bed, foraging on the grass growing there. Its movements were seemingly constrained by old age because there were no visible signs of disease or injury. For ever a fortnight the bull was observed at the pool its ambit progressively shrinking. It was a photographed from the ground with a tripod-mounted camera. Every day the pugmarks of a young tigress resident in the area were seen in the area were seen in the vicinity. One day from these marks itís was evident that the tigress had even stalked and approached the bull. It was apparent however that the tigers were not able to muster up the courage to attack the huge gaur which might have snorted and scared away tigress with his formidable horns Finally one evening the bull became stationary at the edge of the pool and did not move at all even at the passage of vehicles on the road barely five yard from the pool. Early next morning the bull was gone dragged by the young tigress some 50 yard away into bamboo thickets up above the sixty feet high bank from the mark on the carcass. It was evident that the helpless bull was brought down by hamstringing and was probably dragged up the bank even before itís died. After a week when the kill was old cub there was still plenty of food left for the scavenger. The amazing side of the episode is the evidence it provides of the enormous strength of the tiger she probably weighed no more than 150 KG whereas the bull surely weighed over a ton.
A tiger may feed on average size kill chital for a day or two and then may not hunt for two or three days. It usually hides its kill under cover and tries to remain nearby to protect is form scavengers, particularly vultures who once they detect it may descend is hordes and polish off the kill in half an hour if the tiger is not around. An average-size tiger may kill up to three average size prey every two weeks or about 80 every year depending upon the quality of habitat a tiger would need a base population of 300 chital to sustain itself without upsetting chital demography.