By Matthew E. Milliken
May 23, 2015
In early December 1997, Vladimir Markov seemed to be anxious about something. Markov lived in Sobolonye, a village in Russia’s Far East, and he’d been roaming around the community’s outskirts. These movements weren’t unusual in and of themselves, but as he visited various friends, most noticed that he paced nervously, smoked endlessly, and refused offers of food and shelter despite the long winter nights and the piercing cold.
A few days later, Markov was found dead, the victim of a brutal tiger attack. When a team of inspectors from a Russian agency with the unlikely name of Inspection Tiger visited Markov’s cabin, little remained of Markov’s corpse — the enormous cat had made sure of that. This was somewhat unusual. But as John Vaillant documents in his thrillingly readable nonfiction book, The Tiger, other ominous signs were afoot.
In this early passage from the 2010 book, investigator Yuri Trush and his team learn that the method in which the tiger hunted Markov was quite extraordinary and disturbing:
[Markov’s] latrine, his beehives — everything that might have his scent on it — had been thoroughly explored and much of it destroyed. His washstand had been knocked off the cabin’s outer wall, and there was a swipe of tiger blood by the door. Tiger tracks were everywhere, circling the cabin, interrupted only by packed expressions in the snow where the animal stopped to wait and watch before circling the cabin yet again. In one spot, by the wellhead, the tiger had lain on a patch of snow long enough to partially thaw it out. When it finally moved on, a furry shadow of itself remained behind, frozen in place. The tiger had clearly been on the premises for a while, perhaps days — long enough to defecate twice, both times within a few feet of the cabin. It was as if the tiger had staked a claim to the premises and all they contained.
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