The presence of a pack of wolves in and around a patch of forest in Paschim Bardhaman district, around 25km from Durgapur, has kept foresters on their toes.
Residents have been reporting seeing members of the pack for more than a few years now. But there has been no formal documentation of their size or details.
Nilratan Panda, divisional forest officer of Durgapur division, told The Telegraph on Tuesday: “The forests have a pack of Indian Grey wolves. We have clicked pictures. The pack seems to have seven to eight members.”
The habitat and distribution of hyenas, wolves and some other wild animals, said to be found in the forests of south Bengal, is undocumented and the extent of their distribution largely anecdotal, said forest officials.
They are usually found outside protected forest areas and are outside the ambit of census and similar exercises that focus on tigers, elephants and rhinos.
In Paschim Bardhaman, the pack has been spotted in a range of forest that spans around 150sqkm.
The sightings and documentation, if any, has largely been at the behest of local animal enthusiasts.
“I have seen the wolves multiple times between Tilabani and Kantaberia forests. The pack has pups,” said one of them, a 31-year-old man.
Protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, grey wolves are found across peninsular India in scrub forests, grasslands and arid areas.
A bulk of the population remains outside protected land. Lack of surveys means their exact numbers are unknown.
In Paschim Bardhaman, too, it is no different. “We have photographic evidence of the presence of wolves. But we are still working on more details,” said Kalyan Das, chief conservator of forests in the south-east circle, under which the area falls.
Wolves and hyenas have been spotted in the forests of Bankura, Jhargram and Purulia. The forests here are interspersed with human settlements, which also implies the possibility of man-wild conflict.
Hyenas and wolves often lift livestock and risk the ire of local residents.
A hyena was allegedly killed, beheaded and chopped into pieces by some residents of a village in Purulia in July 2020. Forest officials suspected it to have been a retaliatory killing because the hyena had strayed into the village and lifted some livestock.
In February 2019, a wolf was captured by residents of a Jhargram village after the animal allegedly attacked a number of locals.
Panda, the local DFO, said he was up to ensuring the protection of the pack.
“We send regular patrolling teams. We also depend on a network of informants. We keep a check on the movement of outsiders through the forest lands,” he said.