Bears give sleepless nights to cherry growers in Himachal, forest dept asks farmers to beat the drum
Himachal produces around 1200 MT cherry every year grown on 450 hectare area. Major part of it comes from Kotgarh region where the density of cherry orchards is high, while other parts of the state are on infant stage in cherry production.
However, the cherry growers of Kotgarh region are having a tough time as prowling bears are rampant this year. Besides damaging the fruit, bears also affect the day-to-day agricultural work of the farmers. The bears are on prowl mainly in Bahli, Bhutti, Manjavan, Dadesh, banot, Doba, Dalan villages of Kotgarh region.
To tackle this bear menace, the forest department has asked growers to beat the drum to keep bears away from orchards.
“This time around 6-8 villages have been affected from bear menace. They not only destroy the fruit but also damage trees,” said Ajay Thakur, resident of Dadesh Village of Kotgarh region.
With no help from the department of forest, farmers are lighting fires to keep the bears away from orchards. “It is not a permanent solution. One can’t stay in an orchard for the entire night lighting fire,” said HS Thakur, a resident of Kotgarh.
A resident of Bahli village, AS Bhalaik said, “Bears are on prowl for last two to three years but this time incidents are more frequent.” He added that the department of forest is helpless. “I had written to them in 2012 and local office informed me in 2015 that my complaint has been sent to Shimla office. The promptness of the concerned department is unimaginable !” he said.
“The forest officials have asked farmers to beat drums, light fire near orchards to keep bears away but it’s not a practical solution,” said Bhalaik.
A senior forest officer, requesting anonymity said, “There are reports of bears attacking cherry orchards and bee hives from other parts of the state also, but the problem is becoming serious in Kotgarh.”
Divisional forest officer (DFO) HK Gupta said the department can’t do much. “Last time when I spoke to higher office about the issue, they asked farmers to take precautionary measures. Farmers were asked to beat drums, light fire, and smoke in orchards,” said the DFO. However, he said the frequent incidents in Kotgarh as reported by villagers may be because of high density of cherry orchards than other areas.
“Caging was done last year but was not successful as it is difficult to cage a bear,” said HK Gupta