Incredible photos : Tiger frolics with baby deer and ends up leaving it unharmed in remarkable wildlife encounter

But this series of heartwarming pictures by photographer Souvik Kundu shows a tiger sparing the deer’s life and, instead of making it an easy snack, deciding to play with it and treat it like one of its own.

The moment occurred at the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in India with the confused tiger snapped jumping next to the tiny deer, nuzzling with it, and even carrying it gently in its mouth like a cub.

Photographer Souvik Kundu snapped pictures of a tiger playing with a fawn at the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in India

Crowds at the Maharashtra reserve gasped as they predicted the spotted deer fawn would face a swift and gruesome death at the paws of the giant feline.

Instead, the unlikely two appear to become the best of friends, with the gentle tigress tenderly playing with it, before leaving the deer unharmed to live another day.

Photographer Souvik said: ‘When she slowly emerged from cover we were astonished to find she was playing with a hapless spotted deer fawn.

‘The tigress seemed to be in a playful mood, jumping around in excitement.’

The adorable encounter lasted for about 15 minutes, before the big cat retreated and allowed the small deer to rest in the grass.

Photographer Souvik Kundu, 35, from Mumbai witnessed the tigress nuzzling the spotted deer fawn like one of her cubs

The joyful cat was seen jumping next to the deer, patting it and even carrying it in her mouth like a cub

The expectation among the crowd was that the feline would swiftly kill the deer and devour it

Souvik, 35, from Mumbai entitled photographs of the event, The Benevolent Queen, due to the tiger’s gentle nature.

He added: ‘I’m still not sure why the tigress did not prey on the little deer when the chance presented and acted so unnaturally.

‘One probable explanation is the tigress was in search for a mate and her urge for motherhood temporarily overcame predatory instinct.  

Play with me! The tigress instead just wants to play with the baby deer and kept patting it with its paws

Souvik said it was possible the tigress confused the fawn with her own offspring

‘As a result she had confused the fawn for her own offspring.’

The Tadoba Andhari Reserve is the largest national park in Maharashtra, covering a total area of 241 square miles.

The area was home to 43 tigers when a census was conducted in 2010.

The photographs form a series entitled, The Benevolent Queen, due to the tiger’s gentle nature

The tiger left the deer resting in the grass, as the new friends went on with their days