Leopards have been spotted in different residential areas of Punjab recently, creating a scare. The state, which has a sparse forest cover, has seen at least four instances of leopards attacking human beings and cattle in the last couple of months. As their decreasing habitat puts pressure on hunting-animals to look for food elsewhere, the understaffed and under-equipped state forest department has not been able to tackle the emergency situations.
Only last week a leopard was spotted in a colony in Hoshiarpur district, causing panic. A resident of the colony noticed the animal in an abandoned plot of land next to his house. The police and forest officials were informed about it, but their efforts to capture the wild animal did not succeed.
Hoshiarpur has a fair share of forest cover and it was presumed that the leopard might have strayed into the colony from the nearby forest areas. But the residents of villages in Sangrur district bordering Haryana in the southern part of state were in for a surprise early last month when a leopard was seen there. The area does not have a known history of the presence of felines. The forest range officers succeeded in capturing the leopard at village Ratta Khera with the help of the locals. The leopard had earlier injured four persons and some domestic animals. The rumours of another leopard, meanwhile, kept people in many villages around the area awake for many days, as they kept vigil through nights. Later last month, reports of a leopard having been spotted near Kullemajra village in Patiala district caused panic. A few women, who were collecting fodder, claimed to see a leopard spreading fear all around. People stopped stepping out late in the night and took steps to ensure the safety of their cattle. The forest officials kept bait for the animal in a cage but could not trap it. Soon after that, three farmers were injured by a leopard at Gumjal village near Abohar in Ferozepur district. As the news spread of a leopard spotted, the three farmers followed the pugmarks of the leopard to a vacant area where it attacked them. Forest officials were informed. They initiated a manhunt for the animal, but again to no avail. In November a leopard was spotted at Kadian village in Ludhiana at least thrice. The big cat was cornered in a bore well and a net was brought to capture it but it eluded the forest department officials and ran away after tearing the net.