Dehradun : While there is all round concern for the safety of all those who may be stranded at different places following the macabre tragedy to have hit Uttarakhand, there is special fear of such people falling victims to leopards that are known to roam the hills of this small mountain state, as the felines may make prey of these helpless people.
Wild life authorities here admitted that leopards in the hills of Uttarakhand are known to attack school going children or even women when hungry, and under such circumstances it could not be ruled out they may attack the pilgrims who have taken shelter in the forests and remote areas of this small mountain state.
They said that what was causing concern is the fact that some of the stranded people have taken shelter in the caves and under the rocks to save themselves from the vagaries of nature. What is worse that many of them are very weak or physically imjured and sick and may not be in a psotiion to shoo off the leopards, if and when attack.
The problem they maintained was that once these felines tasted human blood and the ease with which they could get their prey, could turn them into man-eaters.
“We could have a number of man-eaters at are hands if efforts are not made to evacuate the sick and injured are not evacuated from the interiors and lonely terrains, where they are susceptible to leopard attacks”, they claimed.
Though they said that leopards normally shy away from man, but a hungry feline seeing an easy prey would not hesitate to attack, and right now the condition of the stranded persons is not that they can take on a leopard under any circumstances.
There were also apprehensions that during the period when the rivers were at spate and there was all round tragedy with boulders falling and houses falling into the rivers, many of the pilgrims in panic went up the mountains in the higher reaches to save themselves from the fury of the water. Some of them could be still there as they may be injured or sick, which makes them easy target.
Meanwhile with the army having launched its third phase of the rescue operation to fan out into the hills along the many footpaths and forest paths in the mountains and forests in search of the missing, or those who may be lying in such areas unable to move due to injury or sickness, or just hunger, there is hope that these people will be brought back to the nearest roadheads so that they can be shifted to Dehra Dun or nearby townships.
It may be mentioned here that though there has not been any census of leopards in Uttarakhand for quite some time, but there numbers are fairly large and as they do not have much natural prey to hunt for in the wilds, many of them are known to prey on domestic animals or even attack women and children, when hungry.