January 3, 2020 10:10:54 pm
An unusually high number of instances of black bears attacking cattle in the Kotgarh forest division this winter has left both local residents and forest officials surprised. Till mid-November, bears had reportedly killed at least 11 cows and calves in the area while several more incidents were reported till the first week of December.
A few days ago, forest officials roped in private hunters to kill a bear believed to have been behind some of the attacks, but it could not be found. Last month, area residents had killed a bear after it had allegedly attacked several cows.
The attacks took place mainly in villages falling under Kirti and Kotgarh gram panchayats in upper Shimla, including Dalan, Gharal, Rogha, Loshta, Arthi, Bairi, Kadanu, Shawat and Titri.
“The frequency of attacks this winter left the residents afraid to venture out the forest alone or at night. Bears have also damaged farms and cowsheds. Last month, residents hunted down the bear they believed was responsible for killing the cows. When the attacks continued, the forest department sanctioned the killing of another bear. “A hunting team from Solan camped in the forest area for some days but failed to sight the animal,” said an official from the forest department.
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He added that dwindling food resources in the wild due to various factors could be one of the reasons for bears targeting domestic animals. Black bears feed on berries, nuts, resin, ban oak seeds etc., but are known to develop a taste for human foods as well.
According to forest department records, 34 cows/calves were killed by bears across the state in 2019 till mid-November. Around one-third of these attacks took place in the Kotgarh forest area. Area MLA Rakesh Singha had also raised the issue during the winter Assembly session.
BL Negi, conservator of Forests, Rampur Circle, said, “The black bears go into hibernation usually in December-January when it starts snowing. We had set up camera traps to track the bears but they are believed to have gone into hibernation now and we called off the exercise” he said. Negi added that bears attack cattle more often when they are raising their young ones.
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