As told, with his pictures, by TVN Murthy
Honorary Wildlife Warden, Tumkur District, Karnataka and
Founder Advisor, WANC, Tumkur.
On Feb 20, 2009, I received an unusual call from residents of Devalapura village, near Madhugiri Town, in south-eastern Karnataka, at half past eight and rushed to the spot. I could hear howls of a bear from almost half a KM from where it seemed to be located. On reaching the place, I saw an entire village watching in apprehension a Sloth bear. It was trapped up a Jackfruit tree.
Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus) is quite common around Madhugiri in Tumkur District. Many villagers encounter this animal in early hours and at dusk. I have heard many reports of attack on human in this area. During the recent by-elections to Madhugiri Assembly constituency, a sloth bear mother with cubs, mauled to death a home guard deputed to secure the elections.
But, what I didn't know was, about a systematic trap used by villagers to catch this animal. All that the farmers here do is wind a thick steel wire around trunks of Jack fruit trees in and around their farmlands and intertwine it with a few ligatures drawn from automobile brake/ clutch cable. When an animal tries to climb or come down the tree, it unwittingly puts its feet into the knot. As it tries to pull the limb away, the 'trap' will arrest the animal. You can see this in the close-up image of the trapped leg.
It would have been an easy task to just untie the knot to release the animal, but villagers said this animal frequently entered the farmlands around their village. They demanded its relocation away from their village. Giving into the villagers, authorities summoned a veterinary doctor to assist them.
It was not easy to go near the injured and anxious animal. First, ropes were tied to the animal arresting its movement and then the Vet managed to inject a sedative. In a few minutes, the animal developed drowsiness and was near asleep. With the support of villagers and forest guards we could able to bring down the animal. It was then put in a cage.
It was a sub-adult male Sloth Bear. The body was about 168 cm long, covered in long and shaggy fur. It has its distinctive "V"-shaped white mark on the chest, a whitish snout and black nose. It's snout was long with bare lips and lacked upper incisors - adaptations for its insect-based diet. For your information, the sloth bear's front feet are turned inwards and its curved claws are non-retractable, that are adapted to dig and climb.
Since the bear was healthy and did not have any injuries, it was decided that it be released in a nearby state forest. It was brought into the wilderness of Devarayanadurga State Forest, 10 km as a crows flies south-east from the place where it was caught. After ensuring the sedation had worn off and it was active as it should be, it was released in to the wild.
Three weeks from the release, there have been no reports of this (or any) bear attacking humans or entering villages surrounding this state forest. Please click here to read some info and see a map on Devarayanadurga State Forest.