Barking dogs attract leopards from wild

Barking dogs attract leopards from wild

This was the finding of a year-long study conducted by Himachal Pradesh's wildlife department on a fully grown female leopard that was tracked with the help of a radio collar in a forest near Shimla.

"On a few occasions, the (studied) leopard strayed quite near to the habitations but never in direct confrontation with the humans. Its presence at times was highly correlated with the presence of dogs in the house or even stray ones," Sandeep Rattan, a veterinary surgeon who installed the collar in September 2010, told IANS.

The barking sounds of a dog always proved to be an attraction for the wildcat, he said.
The leopards generally prefer to live in areas close to humans, as these supply prey to them, but avoids confrontation with people.

"The female leopard is also attracted to villages due to small domesticated animals like sheep and goat. But it does not attack the humans," said Rattan.

According to him, the leopard generally uses the same trail in the wild as is used by humans and other domesticated animals. "In the study, we have observed that the leopard prefers to hide near the trail to keep an eye on the domesticated animals," Rattan said.

Its habitat was mainly thick deodar and oak trees and plenty of tall grasses where human interference was minimal. It roamed within a territory of 35 sq km where a number of villages were located.

Chief Wildlife Warden A.K. Gulati said the radio collared animal helped to know more about its behaviour, reasons for coming closer to households and its natural prey base.
"This was one-of-its-kind studies in the north on the wildcat," he said.

A leopard which was reported to have been attacking domestic animals in and around Dumi village on outskirts of Shimla on a regular basis was trapped and later released after tagging it with a radio collar.

Gulati said on a few occasions, sensing the proximity to humans (wildlife teams), the leopard silently moved away to avoid any sort of direct confrontation.

The radio collar, costing Rs.200,000, was provided to the wildlife wing by Pune-based NGO Waghoba Trust. The NGO is tracking leopards in Maharashtra using the same technology.

The radio collar, weighing 1.5 kg, is still sending the signals, though blurred as its battery is running out.

"The magnetic locks of the collar will open any time and it will be retrieved from the forests," he added.

After recharging its batteries, the collar can be installed again on some other animal.
Though the leopard is protected under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, it is occasionally poached for its skin. Sometimes it is also killed by farmers to protect their livestock.

According to the wildlife department, 265 cases of leopard attacks have been reported in the state since 2004.

A total of 22 people, mostly women and children, have been killed by leopards during this period.

The situation is most acute in Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Mandi and Kangra districts and parts of Kullu, Shimla, Sirmaur and Solan districts.

According to the last census conducted in 2004, the state's leopard population stood at 761.

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