Scent marking in free-ranging tigers,Panthera tigris

James L Smith, Charles McDougal, Dale Miquelle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Data were colleted on the scent-marking patterns of radio-collared and visually identifiable tigers for 4 years in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Five categories of marking were recorded: urine spraying; scraping with deposits of urine faeces, and anal gland secretions; clawing; cheek rubbing; and vegetation flattening. Urine spraying and scraping were the predominant forms of marking in this population. Tigers marked more heavily at territorial boundaries than in the interior of territories. Furthermore, in border areas marks were highly clumped at contact zones where major routes of travel approached territorial boundaries. This pattern appears to be a result of the density of vegetation which channels travel. The intensity of marking in these zones represented a higher frequency of marking rather than an increase in time spent in these areas. Marking was most intensive when tigers were establishing territories, and animals on adjacent territories appeared to mark in response to each other. Females marked intensively just prior to oestrus; this behaviour was reduced during oestrus. Males marked more frequently when females were in oestrus than during other stages of the females' cycle. A model is proposed where an odour field signals the risk of encountering a conspecific, thus allowing animals to compare the costs of possible encounters with the benefits of use of a given area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Behaviour
StatePublished - 1989

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to His Majesty's Government Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation for assistance and encouragement throughout the duration of this project . We also thank the staff of Tiger Tops Lodge for their hospitality and help on numerous occasions . Many people read and provided comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript ; we thank F . J . Cuthbert, F. W . Harrington, P . A . Jordan, D . G . Kleiman, D . F . McKinney, L . D . Mech, G . B . Schaller, C . Wemmer and an anonymous reviewer . Financial support for the project was provided by Smithson-ian Institution and by World Wildlife Fund-U .S . Appeal . The final manuscript was prepared while the senior author was supported by a grant from the Minnesota Agricultural Experimental Station .


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