In the past two weeks, reports of wild animals such as leopards, jackals and deer visiting human settlements in the rural areas have gone up. Though the villagers believe that scarcity of water due to inadequate rainfall is forcing wild animals to visit their neighbourhood, forest department officials say that availability of food and shelter near human settlements is the main reason for the increased number of sightings.
The forest officials also said that the areas where animal sightings had been frequent would be surveyed. It has been reported that leopards and deer have been frequently visiting villages, especially Mulshi and Lohegaon.
Sources said that last month a female leopard lost her life after she fell into a 50-feet-deep well near Dahingule village in the district.
Last week, an adult male leopard was spotted in Dhondegaon village near Nashik, which the locals claim had strayed into the village in search of water.
“We have to inquire from the locals the exact number of times they have spotted wild animals in their area. We’ll have to survey territorial streams and perennial water bodies around the villages to find out whether the animals are actually visiting these places for water,” forest officer M K Rao said.
Dr D Gujar, deputy director of social forestry, Nashik, refuted the claims made by the villagers, stating that wild animals usually survive on a small quantity of water, and must have visited human settlements ins search of food or shelter.
“The animals are restricted to one area only and they generally migrate for food not water. They, sometimes, even seek shelter in sugarcane fields. Animals visit water bodies once in 48 hours. They are entering human territory because their habitat is being destroyed,” said Gujar.
Chief Conservator of Forests for Pune, Nitin Kakodkar, said it’s only during summers that animals’ need of water increases. “Even though the city and some of its surrounding areas are facing water shortage, there has been some rain in other areas. Though the rainfall hasn’t been adequate, wild animals will have no problems because as per findings, there is sufficient water for them,” Kakodkar said.