Prowling leopards, bears send Himachal Pradesh wildlife department into tizzy

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With the onset of winter, leopards and bears have started shifting to lower hills, close to human settlements; nine cages set up in Shimla to trap the big cats

INDIA Updated: Nov 18, 2017 09:59 IST
Hindustan Times, Shimla
With the onset of winter, leopards, bears and other carnivores have started descending to the lower hills, close to human settlements, leading to an increase in the man-animal conflict in the state.

Leopards are routinely sighted in peripheral areas and even at the Barnes court—the official residence of the governor. This has raised concerns for the wildlife department, which has now started taking precautionary measures to keep the animals at bay.

“Leopards have been spotted in New Shimla, Ram Nagar, Mehli, Tutti Kandi and Bharari Beer Khanna,” Sandeep Rattan, assistant director in the forest department’s wildlife wing, told Hindustan Times. “We have put up cages at nine different places in Shimla town to trap the wandering felines,” he added.

REASON FOR INCREASING LEOPARD ATTACKS

Rattan says that the heaps of garbage laying around the town attract stray dogs and these further draw leopards from the peripheral areas to localities in the main town.

“With the passage of time, forest cover in the peripheral areas around Shimla town has shrunk drastically, thus reducing the prey base for felines, which have now started straying into the town in search of food,” he adds.

Recently, when a man-eating leopard killed an elderly woman in Kinnaur district’s Ribba village, the wildlife department engaged hunters to gun it down. Two days ago, a leopard had attacked a house in a village in Sirmaur and killed about a dozen sheeps and goats.

BEAR MENACE

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In the backward Chamba district, bears are threatening human life and destroying crops. Recently, bears attacked a group of villagers in Chamba district’s Jhummar village, sparking off panic in the region. The residents in Jhummar even refused to send their wards to school, fearing a bear attack.

The villagers went on seek the intervention of Chamba deputy commissioner to protect them from bear attacks. The wildlife department in Chamba has deputed drum beaters in different villages to scare off bears.

The decreasing prey base in jungles is being cited as main reason for the rising man-animal conflict. “Increasing biotic interference in the habitats of large carnivores, including leopards, and easy availability of food prey base in human-used landscapes has brought the large carnivores towards human habitations causing leopard human conflicts,” said principal chief conservator of forest RC Kang.

RISE IN THE NUMBER OF CASES

The state has witnessed 34 deaths due to leopard attacks since 2004. In addition, 367 cases of injury to people have also been reported over the same period, out of which 99 cases were of grievous nature.

However, the highest number of death cases were reported between 2007 and 2008 when seven people were reported to be killed in leopard attacks. In the past three years, four people in the state died due to leopard attacks.

The number of such attacks is high in Bilaspur and Hamirpur district where their population has risen over the last decade. Leopards have been foraying into human habitats, causing scare among residents. According to census carried out in 2004, there were about the 761 leopards in the state, but in the last one decade, the number has seemingly increased as felines are frequently being spotted near towns, suburbs and villages.

Leopard attacks are the most prevalent in Hamirpur, Bilaspur and Mandi district

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