Stock image of leopard
© Getty
The pandemic and the consequent lockdown seem to have had little impact on Uttarakhand's rampant human-wildlife conflict (HWC) menace. Till October 30 this year, 50 people have already been killed (nearly half of them by leopards) and 214 injured in attacks by wild animals in the state. The figures are close to those of 2019, when 58 people lost their lives to such attacks and 181 were injured.

According to data exclusively accessed by TOI from the Uttarakhand forest department, in the first 10 months of the year - from January to October - 24 people have been killed in leopard attacks and 13 by snakebites.

Eight people have died due to attacks by elephants, two each by bear and wild pig attacks and one after being attacked by a crocodile.

The maximum attacks were by bears, which struck 71 times this year in the state, followed by 58 leopard attacks, 38 wild pig attacks, 35 snake bites and eight elephant attacks.

Mounds of garbage and unchecked urbanisation inching closer to forest boundaries contribute to the spiralling HWC in the state, say forest officials.

Most lives lost in leopard attacks

Out of the 24 people killed in leopard attacks, three lives each were lost in Pithoragarh, Almora and Narendera Nagar forest divisions. The rest of the attacks took place sporadically across the state.

Forest officials feel humans' coexistence with leopards has become increasingly difficult. Talking to TOI, an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, who didn't want to be named, said, "Leopards have been man-eaters since time immemorial. Cattle and dogs have always been part of the animals' diet, which draws them to human habitats. The best way to control them is by checking the carrying capacity of forest divisions and demarcating areas for leopards. Funds need to be channelled towards scientific population management of leopards rather than awareness campaigns."

Of the 13 deaths caused by snake attacks, Terai East forest division recorded the maximum mortalities at five, followed by four deaths in Nainital forest division.

Elephant attacks are a worry for the forest department too, especially with Haridwar Kumbh in the offing. Of the eight people killed in pachyderm attacks, the maximum of three deaths were reported from Terai Central, followed by two in Ramnagar forest division.

According to experts, bear attacks are the most gruesome and require the costliest treatment. One person in Bageshwar and another in Rudraprayag were killed by bears this year. The latest attack in Vaduk village of Chamoli occurred on Friday, when a 45-year-old woman, who had gone to bring fodder to her livestock, was brutally mauled to death.

Crocodile attacks have killed one person in the state so far - a child in a swampy area in Haridwar. Towards the end of September this year, Haridwar had sounded a "crocodile conflict alert" after crocodile sightings started becoming common in the district's households. Piles of garbage discarded in water bodies, wildlife experts said, made for perfect nesting sites for the reptiles.