A leopard which had sneaked in to the canal colony here in the wee hours of Friday, kept the wildlife officials on tenterhooks the whole day. The big cat could not be trapped till late in the evening.
An expert was called from Chandigarh to calm the animal but it remained untraceable due to wild growth on the vacant plot it had hidden in. As a JCB was pressed in to service, it jumped out and hid in the sugarcane fields near a gurdwara, leaving the staff high and dry.
The cat was spotted as early as 6 am but the wildlife officials reached the site well after 9 am. A peon in the Irrigation department was the first to notice it, huddled under a guava tree outside his quarter.
"I first thought someone was sleeping with a blanket on but on closer observation I found that it was a leopard", said Singh Bahadur. He revealed that the animal suddenly leapt beyond the boundary wall and slinked into the wild growth in the walled plot across the road. On being informed executive engineer Varinder Kumar rang up the divisional forest officer (DFO) and sub divisional magistrate who passed on the information to DFO (wildlife) Satnam Singh.
The wildlife staff and the police guarded the site from all corners even as they waited for an expert team to reach from the headquarters. When the shooter reached in the afternoon, the leopard became inaccessible.
A fire brigade was called to flatten the long grass but to no avail. The rescue team was then transported in the plot in a cage but the crane that lifted the cage sunk in the earth.
After much dithering the DFO decided to call a JCB but as soon as it was pressed in to service, the leopard escaped.
Satnam Singh said that the animal would most likely escape in the Shivaliks but night patrolling would be done to avert any possible harm to the public. Defending his delaying tactics, he said the rescue operation had to be handled very carefully.
It must be mentioned here that about two years ago, a leopard had died in Khangwari village due to negligence of the wildlife department.