The leopard, which had strayed in to the city on Friday and kept the wildlife department on toes throughout the day, escaped somewhere in the Bhangi choe.
DFO (wildlife) Satnam Singh claimed that its pug marks were seen near Bassi Jana government nursery-cum-park. "In all probability, it has escaped to the jungle, its natural habitat".
The department failed to capture the animal till night whereas it had been spotted in the Canal Colony around 6 am. A peon in the irrigation department had seen it lying under a tree.
Later, it had leapt over the wall and hid in a plot full of wild plantation. Wildife officials invited flak from locals as well as the political leaders who had seen the rescue operation going haywire. Notwithstanding claims of the officials that the animal would not return, people remained in grip of fear.
Satnam Singh said straying of leopards was a common phenomenon as they lived near forest periphery. "People should not panic as the animal is docile and does not attack unless provoked".
He claimed that the department was keeping a close watch even as it believed that the leopard had returned to its natural habitat. "Shivaliks are just two kilometres away and we suppose that the leopard has found its way back ".