… leads to foresters and policemen guarding the poultry at night

Wildlife: A bear in Gasa has developed a taste for chicken.

For the past two nights, it has damaged Pasang Dorji’s poultry farm in Dakapangchu village, Khatoe gewog of Gasa and claimed the lives of a chicken and rooster.

In the first case of human-wildlife conflict at the Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) this year, the bear broke the fence of the coop on the night of January 14 and ate a chicken before the villagers chased it away.

The house is located near the Punakha-Gasa highway but surrounded with thick forests.

The poultry farm owner reported the incident to the JDNP authority and seven foresters and policemen guarded the farm on the second night. Still the bear managed to take away a rooster from the farm that night.

“They fired blank shots and drove it away at around 8pm,” JDNP officiating park manager, Namgay said.

The foresters and police stood guard yesterday night too. The bear came but only loitered in the forest near the house.

“It comes when the lights are turned off and when the household remains silent,” the park manager said.

The wildlife conservation division chief Sonam Wangchuk said that if it continues to attack then a rescue team from Thimphu would tranquilise it and relocate it to another area in the park.

It is around this time of the season, between October and March, that bears invade human settlements in JDNP.

In October a bear fell into a snare in Khamae gewog, Gasa, and was relocated.

Just last month, Namgay said a bear had broken into a lhakhang and two houses in Laya.

The bear broke in through the windows and ate grocery items inside. The houses store a lot of grains and grocery items.

Local residents said a few years ago a bear broke into a house in Laya and drank Black Mountain Whisky, which was stored in the house. It was sleeping on the floor when the villagers turned up to chase it away.

Bears hibernate in winter. “But going by the trend of attacks, looks like they don’t any more,” Namgay said.

Sonam Wangchuk said that there is a misconception that the bear population has grown. “Usually the bears are attacking human premises because there is no food resources in the forests, and find easy food in the villages,” Sonam Wangchuk said.

More than 10 bear mauling cases were referred to the national referral hospital in Thimphu last year.

Himalayan Black Bears are among the top predators coming into conflict with livestock and crops in the country.

At least 10 livestock were lost each month to tigers, snow leopards and the Himalayan Black Bear in the past four years, records with the Wildlife Conservation Division (WCD) show.

Annual crop loss to wildlife depredation ranges from 0.3 to 18 percent of the total household income. Livestock depredation is 2.3 percent. These losses are equal to 17 percent of the household’s annual income, a study by WCD officials showed.

The forest and park services department compensated more than Nu 8.42 million for livestock depredation from 2002-2014.

Tshering Palden