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Watch two of nature’s heavyweights go head-to-head in the wild in India

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Visitors to a wildlife sanctuary in India recently witnessed an incredibly rare sight, when a bear and a tigress faced each other in a standoff that almost resulted in a fight.

The scene took place in April in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, a protected area in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Visitors on safari filmed the encounter and posted a video on the social platform X 30th of April. The video shows a tigress (Panthera tigris) strolling along a dirt road and then stopping when a bearwhat appears to be a sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), emerges from the trees ahead.

The bear wanders across the road and disappears behind long grass while the tigress watches. A little later, as the tigress continues walking, the bear appears again and chases after her.

“A rare sight of a bear charging towards a tigress captured today at Pilibhit Tiger Reserve,” Rajiv Kumar Guptaa retired Indian Civil Service official who witnessed the encounter wrote in the post.

In the video, the tigress turns when she hears the bear charging after her, but she does not attack and instead stands her ground. After the two predators face each other for a few seconds, the bear retreats into the trees.

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“Top predators usually have mutual respect for each other, especially if they are of similar size,” Tara Pirie, a lecturer in ecology and conservation at the University of Surrey in Britain who was not on safari at the time of the encounter, told LiveScience in an email. “The tiger took the time to look at the bear and possibly recorded it to understand more about it. The bear did not show a particularly aggressive attack on the video, so the tiger must have decided it was big enough to stand to hold.”

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Predators of similar strength and size tend to avoid unnecessary fights because fighting wastes energy and puts both parties at risk of injury, Pirie said.

In this case, the tigress may have been particularly reluctant to engage in a fight because she was nursing three young cubs at the time of the encounter and “couldn’t afford any harm.” Jitender Govindani, a professor and member of the academic council of the ICBM School of Business Excellence in Hyderabad, India, who witnessed the standoff. Govindani noted that the tigress appeared to surrender when the bear attacked.

“The tigress lowered her guard and surrendered when the bear went into attack mode,” Govindani told LiveScience in an email. “Once the tigress surrendered, the bear immediately left as he was also reluctant to fight and showed aggression just to demonstrate his willingness to tackle the tigress head-on if provoked into a fight.”

Earlier in April, another tigress and her cubs ambushed and killed a crocodile in Ranthambore National Park, in India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan. A video made by visitors showed the four tigers feasting on the crocodile carcass.

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