When can a Siberian tiger be spotted? When it walks down a Chinese motorway, of course

Motorists capture big cat on film as it strolls along the edge of a forest beside busy road

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 4:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 4:20pm

Motorists in northeastern China got a surprise on Tuesday when a Siberian tiger was spotted walking along an embankment at the edge of a forest, local media reported.

“We thought it must be lost,” said farmworker Zhang Chuangwen, who said he saw the big cat about 5pm on Tuesday as he was driving along Jianji Expressway in Heilongjiang province, a remote region close to the border with Russia.

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“It appeared to be a bit confused, it kept glancing right and left, and was walking very slowly,” he was quoted as saying by Beijing Youth Daily on Friday.

Zhang said the tiger, which darted back into the woods when it realised it was being watched, probably weighed “about 300 pounds [136kg]”.

Another witness, Xu Chengjie, was quoted as saying the tiger strolled along the side of the road for “three to five minutes” before disappearing.

Zhang said that as soon as the animal went back into the trees he called the forestry bureau to report what he had seen.

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The provincial forestry department subsequently issued widespread public safety warnings and increased patrols in the area to prevent the animal from being hunted, the report said.

On Wednesday, rangers found paw prints at the reported location of the sightings. From their shape and size, experts were able to identify the animal as an adult female Siberian tiger, the report said.

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Sightings of wild Siberian tigers are not uncommon in Heilongjiang. On September 1, two farmers spotted one of the big cats in a rice paddy field, while paw prints were twice discovered on farmland last month, according to local media reports.

Siberian tigers are the world’s biggest cats. Their main habitat is eastern Russia, though they are occasionally found in China and North Korea.