A high-profile Amur tiger named Vladik is on quite the walkabout – and so far staying out of trouble in the course of it, to the relief of the Russian scientists and wildlife managers who are trying to keep tabs on him.

Last year, Vladik attracted plenty of attention (and earned his name) by prowling around the suburbs of Vladivostok (nicknamed "Vladik"), a city of more than half a million that serves as the regional capital of the Russian Far East's Primorsky Krai (aka Primorye). The young male, the first to be seen around the city in decades, spooked many residents and spiced up commutes, as this dashcam video shows:

In October 2016, after an intensive effort to track him down, the Primosky Hunting Department captured Vladik after a motorist spotted him by the roadside after dark and called police. The cosmopolitan tiger was placed in captivity for the winter by the Amur Tiger Centre as that organisation, World Wildlife Fund-Russia and the Hunting Department mulled the best place to return him to the wild. Ultimately, Sergey Aramilev, the Amur Tiger Centre's director general, and his colleagues settled on an auspicious release site: Bikin National Park, some 700 kilometres (435 miles) north.

The park, established in 2015, was a promising choice: it protects one of the most significant swathes of old-growth temperate forest in the Northern Hemisphere, within the basin of the Bikin River on the western slope of the Sikhote-Alin Mountains. This "Russian Amazon", which also preserves the traditional lifeways of the indigenous Udege and Nanai peoples, is estimated to shelter ten percent of the remaining global population of Amur tigers.

"As we know, male tigers can travel huge distances," Aramilev told The Siberian Times last May. "That's why, given his past and passion for city life, we decided to take him to the most remote area of wild taiga with a big number of hoofed ungulates as a food supply."

Researchers outfitted Vladik with a GPS collar before releasing him in Bikin. Thanks to its data stream, they were able to track his decision not to stick around in the Bikin River wilderness and, instead, start trekking southward back toward Vladivostok.

The epic journey back to his old stomping grounds required crossing such sundry obstacles as the Suifen River, a major highway and the Trans-Siberian Railway. If those would-be roadblocks and the sheer distance weren't enough, Vladik earned a few more tough-guy points by feasting on at least three Asiatic black bears along the way for good measure.

By this October, Vladik had essentially come full circle: he was sighted close to the airport at Vladivostok. His flummoxed but impressed trackers wondered whether he might end up in China, a stone's throw or two from the city and home to a much-diminished clutch of Amur tigers.

As it happens, Vladik still has itchy paws. After briefly revisiting his former big-city haunts, he's turned back north, the Amur Tiger Center reported earlier this month. By retracing his challenging steps across busy transportation corridors, Aramilev noted that "the tiger proved the first time was not an accident", and suggested the possibility of a dispersal corridor between the Sikhote-Alin's tigers and those in southwestern Primorsky Krai – and perhaps the need for wildlife crossings along it.

While the purpose or destination of Vladik's wanderlust remain unclear, conservationists are heartened by the fact that the tiger has mostly steered clear of human settlements during his roundabout roaming.

Vladik's there-and-maybe-back-again vision quest is far from the first case of a translocated critter – an animal moved from one geographic area to an entirely different one outside its home range – hoofing (or padding) it back to the vicinity of its original capture. Many carnivores show "homing" impulses (as well as a more general tendency to roam) following translocation, a common and controversial technique – especially in North America and Africa – for removing "problem" animals from areas of conflict with human beings without killing them.

Both black and brown/grizzly bears, for example, have been documented journeying homeward more than 200 kilometres (124 miles) following translocation. One brown bear swam at least ten kilometres (six miles) at sea on a 90-kilometre (56-mile) homing quest. In 2010, meanwhile, a young male grizzly trapped by wildlife officials the year before on Montana's Great Plains after killing a sheep was released west of the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains, only to return to the prairies near his original capture site. After a trek of probably at least 322 kilometres (200 miles), the bear promptly went the naughty route again, breaking into a chicken coop.

In a New Mexico study, meanwhile, two male pumas travelled an impressive (if not quite Vladik-worthy) 465 and 490 kilometres (288 and 304 miles) after being translocated back to where they were caught.



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