The Amur tiger, Panthera tigris altaica, is currently distributed across the southern part of the Russian Far East and parts of northeastern China. Most Amur tigers are found in Russia, where their range is fragmented into at least 3 populations (a large population centered in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains and 2 smaller populations in northwest and southwest Primorye Krai). Traditionally, track-based techniques have been used for surveys of tigers in Russia. However, such techniques involve problems such as misinterpretation of track sizes due to snow degradation, and thus, other survey protocols have been needed. This study aimed to identify individuals and estimate population size using noninvasive genetic samples, such as feces, hairs, and saliva, collected from southwest Primorye Krai during 4 winters (2000–2001, 2001–2002, 2002–2003, and 2004–2005). During these winters, we identified 12 tigers (5 males and 7 females) using 10 microsatellite markers. Population size estimated from the 2002–2003 samples was 12 (95% confidence interval = 9–19), which was comparable to the estimate from the track count survey. Of the 3 types of noninvasive genetic samples we collected, feces were the most useful in terms of genotyping success rate and sampling efficiency. The noninvasive genetic methods developed in this study can contribute to population monitoring and management assessment of tiger conservation in the Russian Far East.
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Vol. 93 • No. 1