Changing behaviour of black bears has experts worried

SHIMLA: We might have grown up reading storybooks of the sluggish black bears going into hibernation for three winter months, but that will be a thing of the past if wildlife experts are to be believed.

Changing behaviour of black bears has experts worried

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, March 4

We might have grown up reading storybooks of the sluggish black bears going into hibernation for three winter months, but that will be a thing of the past if wildlife experts are to be believed.

Baffled at the changing behaviour of black bears of no longer going into hibernation in winter, the Forest Department in collaboration with Wildlife Institute, Dehradun, has decided to study the changing pattern, which is beyond their comprehension.

Though no census has been undertaken to assess the black bear population in the state, this sudden rise in attacks by them during winter when they used to always hibernate, has left the staff of the wildlife wing perplexed.

“We plan to undertake a study of their behaviour jointly with the Dehradun institute so as to ascertain the reasons for this sudden change,” Nagesh Guleria, Chief Conservator, Wildlife, said. He said black bears were a nuisance in summer and monsoon when they would come down from higher reaches to feed and devastate maize crop and now they remain active in winter also.

They are attacking humans as they come to the lower areas in search of food.

This sudden change in behaviour has caught the attention of the forest staff, who feel the reasons for this must be looked into. “We will have to see whether this has happened due to climatic change, biotic pressure or rising man-animal conflict,” emphasises Guleria. This major change in behaviour will be studied with the help of experts.

Black bears are normally found in areas lying at an elevation of about 5,000 to 7,000 ft. The areas in Himachal having a high black bear population include Ani in Kullu, Rampur Bushahr, Sarahan in Shimla district, Barot in Mandi, higher reaches of Sirmaur district, Bharmour and Pangi in Chamba district. There have been fatal attacks by bears in various parts of the state, besides grievous injuries for which the government provides compensation.One of the possible reasons being attributed to attacks is the human interference in the animal habitat.

The ban on hunting since 1984 could also have led to an increase in the wildlife population. There has been a rise in leopard and bear attacks in the state, which is an indicator of man-animal conflict.

Areas with high bear population

Black bears are normally found in areas lying at an  elevation of about 5,000 to 7,000 ft. The areas in Himachal having a  high black bear population include Ani in Kullu, Rampur Bushahr, Sarahan  in Shimla district, Barot in Mandi, higher reaches of Sirmaur district,  Bharmour and Pangi in Chamba district. There have been fatal attacks by  bears in various parts of the state, besides grievous injuries for  which the government provides compensation. One of the possible reasons being attributed to attacks is the human interference in the animal habitat.

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