GANGTOK, November 17: The periphery areas of Gangtok town, especially the wooded spots, have come under the siege of Himalayan black bears leading to an exasperated wildlife authority to appeal the Gangtokians to abort their morning and evening walks for time being even as a 38 year person is battling for his life after an encounter with a juvenile bear today morning near West Point school, Upper Thanthangchen.
This is the second encounter in Gangtok in a span of 12 days after the horrific incident of November 3 where three forest officials were mauled by foraging bear at Upper Sichey.
In between, bears have been flirting round the edges of urban Gangtok right from the top, Bulbuley running past the defence set up by the forest authorities and local administration.
One such bear, a juvenile bear freshly separated from the mother bear, managed to drift right into a small wooded area near West Point School and few meters away from Tashiling secretariat.
Unfortunately, local person Bimal Gurung was collecting fodder for cattle in the area when he ran into the lurking bear who was rummaging in the bushes for food.
In the ensuing tussle, Gurung sustained deep injuries in his head, right hand and chest portion. He is the tenth person to be attacked by bears in Sikkim in the past one month.
After the brief encounter, the bear slipped away into the bushes while the victim was immediately rushed to SNTM hospital here from where he was referred to Central Referral Hospital in Tadong in serious condition.
State forest secretary ST Lachungpa visited the victim at the hospital and provided a financial assistance for Rs. 5000 for the medical treatment of the injured Gurung.
A team from Himalayan Zoological Park (HZP) led by deputy director Dr Madan Shankar, senior wildlife authorities CCF (Wildlife)
HP Pradhan and DFO (Wildlife, East) Karma Legshey and police personnel from Sadar police station combed the area for hours to trace the bear.
“We combed the area and tried to flush out the bear using firecrackers but the bear could not be traced and most probably the animal must be moved to another location,” said Dr. Shankar. He said that the zoo staff had come prepared with a cage and a tranquilizer team to capture the bear.
Meanwhile, three bears – one adult and two cubs- were sighted at nearby Kopibari, Syari at the same time. The zoo staff and wildlife authorities rushed to spot but the bears had disappeared. The bears are said to be still in the vicinity.
The HZP official said that zoo staff has their hands full since November 9 after a bear migrated into the forest areas of the park. We have been responding to the bear sightings and at the same time, we have to take care of the animals in the park also, he said.
According to Dr. Shankar, use of camera traps would be very useful to track the movement of the wandering bears in suspected areas.
Today’s incident takes the number of bear transgressions into human habitats to more than 20 in different parts of the State.
Out of these transgressions, around eight have turned into encounters with humans leading to injuries to ten persons. Forest authorities and people are perplexed by the rash of bear transgressions in the State since the second week of October and have now cautioned the general public living in and around the wooded areas of the capital.
“The bears usually move around in dawn and dusk hours and we appeal the people to refrain from going out for the morning or evening walks for some days,” said CCF HP Pradhan who expressed his apprehensions that the bear threat will last for some more days.
The parents have been appealed to ensure that their children return back to their homes early.
The forest department has already submitted a report to the State Government seeking funds of Rs. 60 lakhs to beef up its resources and infrastructure to combat the bears.
What is driving these bears out of the forest areas and into the urban areas, questioned the people living in the periphery areas of the main town who are now living under a constant fear of the drifting bears.
While the food issue has been projected as the main reason for the migration of the bears, the proliferation of bear transgressions into human habitat areas have become a matter of serious study for the wildlife authorities and other key agencies.
It is claimed that there has been a decrease in the production wild fruits which were a staple diet for the bears in the high altitude areas. This factor coupled with the increasing numbers of other wild animals like wild boars have compelled the bears to come down to lower areas.
The migration of bears is a natural phenomenon but this year, there has a prolific movement of the bears in and around human habitats, Mr. Pradhan said. He pointed out that such sightings are being regularly reported from all parts of the State.
There has been a sighting at Makha recently and at Parakha in East Sikkim today, said the CCF.
“We are continuing our combing operations in the suspected areas,” Mr. Pradhan said, adding that department and the forest personnel have been fully mobilized to limit the damages and push back the wandering bears.