For two months, it gave villagers and armed-men of the wildlife department a slip. The man-eater leopard killed three persons, including a minor, and mauled three others --- instilling a deep sense of fear among the villagers in Handwara district. But two days ago, the five best hunters of north Kashmir hunted down the leopard in Satkochi forests with the help of a team of the wildlife department.
“For a few months, we were on a lookout for the big cat invading human population. We have been able to kill the cat on Thursday in a joint operation of five hunters with the wildlife department,” said north Kashmir Wildlife warden Rouf Zargar.
Since Monday this week the man-eater attacked and killed 22-year-old Mohammad Iqbal Doje, a resident of Khanpora Satkochi, and Raja Begum, a resident of Lawoosa in separate incidents. Just two weeks ago, the same man-eater mauled to death a six-year -old girl in Handwara district, 65 north of Srinagar.
The wildlife officials had failed to tranquilize or trap the leopard. Deputy Commissioner Kupwara Mohammad Shafi Rather declared the leopard as man-eater this week and gave a license to the wildlife department to kill the cat.
“After following the big cat’s pugs for several days and with the help of villagers our team identified the leopard. An operation was launched on Thursday morning around 7 am and by 1:45 the team neutralized the leopard,” said Zargar.
The wildlife department hired services of the five best hunters of north Kashmir to kill the deceptive animal. “The hunters are well versed with the movement of animals and sense it quickly. They know their business well,” said Zargar.
The leopard killed was a young one. The killing has relieved a number of villages in Handwara where the residents could not venture out in the dark and roam around alone.
Now the wildlife department is after another man-eater active in Kupwara district. “We are on a lookout for another man-eater,” said Kupwara deputy commissioner Rather.
Four people, including two 12-year-olds, were killed in leopard attacks in the north Kashmir district in the recent months. Besides injuring 14 people, including two wildlife officials, the leopards have killed more than 50 cattle.
In the past two years, 35 people were killed and 370 others injured in man-animal conflict in the valley.