Due to the prolonged winter, predatory cats and bears are being compelled to leave the reserve forest in search of food, giving sleepless nights to the residents of the state capital and other nearby towns and villages.
Reports of leopard sightings are pouring in. “People are informing us about spotting leopards in various parts of the town and its surrounding areas over the telephone,” Aneesh Kumar, local divisional forest officer, told HT.
“In some areas, people are panicked and ask us to catch the animals, but we have not received any reports of leopards attacking humans in the town so far,” he added.
Recently, a leopard was spotted in the Jakhu locality of the town, while two days ago, a commuter reported seeing a leopard resting on the busy Shimla-Kalka highway in Tara Devi. Travellers apprised the forest department officials, showing them photographs clicked with mobile phones.
The latest female cat was spotted in the Ravendales locality in the Chotta Shimla area. “We spotted leopard and two cubs near the back of our house,” said Shashi Kalia, a resident of Ravensdale.
“The leopard had come too close to the houses located in the back of our residence,” she said, adding that the sighting had led to a scare in the locality.
Last month, a leopard was spotted near the Vidhan Sabha building in Chaura Maidan.
The Shimla forest division has constituted a four-member team comprising personnel from the wildlife department and the municipal corporation to patrol streets.
Team members have been provided vehicles and asked to inform the division about the movement of leopards in the town.
Forest officials said the prolonged winter has apparently forced the animals to leave their natural habitat.
“The wild cats usually stray into human habitat in search of prey, particularly dogs,” said wildlife divsional forest officer Satish Gupta.
“The extended winter has forced the cats to stray into human habitat and extended the breeding season of the animals that the cats usually feed on in the forest,” he added.
Recently, in two different incidents, leopards killed two children in Kahdan village in the Rampur sub-division of Shimla district, while three days ago, a bear mauled a 70-year-old man in the Nerwa sub-division of the Shimla dustrict.