Pugmarks spotted in the Simplapal forest in Bankura and the Malaboti forest in Jhargram’s Silda on Sunday morning have prompted the forest department to launch an inquiry to find out whether they belong to tigers.
The local beat offices have been put on alert and a team has been sent to measure the pugmarks and make casts, a senior forest department official said on Sunday.
Photographs of the pugmarks are being analysed.
“Prima facie the pugmarks seem to belong to an adult and a sub-adult tiger but we are not yet certain,” the official said.
The area where the pugmarks were spotted on Sunday is close to where a tribal hunting party killed a Bengal tiger in Lalgarh on March 2018, the forest department official said.
Villagers spotted the pugmarks in forests along the Bankura-Jhargram border early on Sunday and alerted the forest department and police.
“The terrain is primarily forest land interspersed with pockets of dense human settlements. Our teams are speaking with villagers,” the official said.
The forest officials will also speak to residents of villages near the spot where the pugmarks have been detected to find out whether any cattle or chickens are missing.
“Predators need to make kills to survive, so we have sent out teams to find out whether any livestock was killed,” another official said.
If the pugmarks are found to belong to tigers, camera traps will be placed in the area to confirm the presence of the big cat.
“We have alerted the range offices and are holding meetings with the villagers as part of confidence-building measures. We are also asking them to alert us immediately if they spot anything,” the official said.
Officials did not rule out a threat to the animal’s life from poachers or villagers.
Shamik Dutta of NGO Stripes and Green Earth, which works for big-cat conservation, said it was imperative that the forest department traced the tiger immediately.
“If it is indeed a tiger, it is important that it is tracked down as soon as possible,” Dutta said.
A tiger that had strayed into the Lalgarh forest in 2018 was caught on hidden cameras before being killed by a hunting group with spears and arrows.
The forest department had failed to capture the big cat for more than 40 days. The Bengal tiger had roamed a 30sq km swathe of forests stretching across Jhargram, West Midnapore and Bankura districts.
From drones to live traps and tranquillising teams, forest officials had tried different techniques to capture the animal but drew a blank.