Some hungers cannot be satisfied. Meet Timo. The Siberian tiger turned man-eating demon in the book actually started out his life as an exotic pet. Timo was one of 3 cubs born to a litter of tigers at a “Cage Hunting” facility. These places raise exotic animals and keep them in small enclosures to facilitate “game hunters” who pay huge prices to then enter the enclosures and shoot a captive animal.
Such facilities are note just despised by animals rights organizations but also by the hunting community as a whole who view “cage” or “can” hunting as a pathetic disgrace that gives all hunters a bad name. It might shock some folks to find out that it was hunters rather than animal rights protestors who got the facility shut down for health code violations and offering endangered species to be hunted.
The state government along with Federal officers seized 234 animals and among them was Timo and his litter-mates and mother. The animals were then transferred to a state run facility. From there the group was split up and Timo would up for a time at a small facility in Tennessee where keepers raised the young male to adulthood. He was later moved to Georgia and lived at a Big Cat rescue facility until the age of four.
In his fifth year of life increasing sea levels had been rising steadily and a pair of massive hurricanes destroyed the facility in just a few short days. Timo wandered inland though without handlers to feed him or experience hunting big game he was soon scavenging kills from other animals. Chaos was already spreading swiftly and during the same period widespread murder and urban warfare was taking place across the United States as government control at last ceased to exist.
In the aftermath of the shooting and looting and brutal killing sprees as people fled their communities, and urban centers bodies littered the region. It was while moving through the gutted remains of a small town that Timo tried the first human corpse. Immediately everything changed for the big cat.
Human blood and meat has a saltier taste than that of game animals such as deer and wild pigs which were often used to supplement his diet in captivity. Finding food was no longer an issue. But Timo soon started to crave fresher meat and the kill. The predator in him was recovering and with his returning strength and size he began stalking urban stragglers. It was a painful learning experience.
During his second kill he was stabbed in the upper back and in the flank twice by his prey before he dispatched the man. But the damage to his muscles and tissue gave him a painful limp and the small but deep wounds took a month to fully heal. After that not only did his gait return to normal but his curiosity and understanding of knives had increased as well. Timo was more cautious when confronting blade wielding humans.
In fact it was almost five months before his first gun shot wound. Once again the animal had gotten lucky. The fist bullet had passed through the shoulder without breaking bone. The second had grazed his abdominal muscles which stung for a good week afterward when he tried to rest. Again, Timo learned.
Understanding guns and rifles had kept him safe and now he honed his skills as he moved westward seeking a good hunting territory. His westward territorial expansion came to a grinding halt when Timo ran across the Birmingham dog pack and was forced up a tree to wait for the massive pack to leave.
As his skills grew so too did the number of nomadic people passing through his range. By year 7 Timo was in his prime and his tastes had become very refined. If there were few humans to be had he ate the choice parts first and then returned to feed on the next least objectionable areas. But when food was plentiful Timo stuck with the liver, the kidneys and soft tissue around the neck and throat. This allowed him to make more kills and through the region it was widely known that something big was killing people. But the exact species or identity of the animal was unknown. Timo was a ghost. He could vanish easily in the recovering forests and brush lands. He understood how to bypass hunters, traps, dogs, and warring parties of men and women.
Taking out groups was no longer an issue. It was only a matter of timing and caution. Timo had become a virtually unknown terror and people passing through his region seldom did so with the same numbers as when they first set out.
Some tiger facts:
Did you know that when tigers scent mark it smells like hot buttered popcorn? If you find yourself alone in a wooded region and see claw marks on a tree trunk, and you smell buttered popcorn along the side of that tree, you can be sure that there is a tiger on the loose in that area.
Did you know that of all five species of Tigers still alive that the Bengal tiger is most often implicated in “man eater” attacks on people. The greatest number of these attacks occur in the mangrove swamps of the Sunderbans. However tigers have large territories and man eating cats are not unheard of in other regions.
Did you know that typically Siberian tigers do not prey on humans. While they are the largest of the tiger species and the biggest cat on the planet, typical cases of Siberian tigers killing and eating humans are cases where a hunted animal has been wounded and then turns the table on hunting parties or groups. Even after having consumed human hunters or tormentors, typically Siberian tigers go back to their regular prey species and continue to avoid human contact. It is EXTREMELY rare for a Siberian tiger to turn into a human killing machine. This makes Timo a very unique beast in the story and in the annals of natural history.
Did you know that during the last century 3 of the 8 species of tigers were hunted to extinction by man? In 1937 the Balinese tigers were wiped out. This was a small species that lived exclusively on the island of Bali. In the 1950’s the Caspian Tiger was brought to extinction. They were thought to be a sub-species of the Siberian Tiger. And in the 1980s the Javan Tiger was killed off.
Did you know that today there are more tigers alive in zoos, and captivity than there are in all of the wild? Programs have been established to help protect tigers but they are still under considerable danger from poaching pressure. Much of this to supply the “traditional” Chinese medicine trade with potions and elixirs none of which have ever been shown to have any actual medicinal value. In other words, superstition and ancient beliefs as well as habitat loss and conflict with humans is destroying tiger populations worldwide and threatening all species with extinction in the wild.