By Aaliya Mir
The village of Naesh Bhat is in the district of Baramulla and has a population of about 1500 people. The village is situated in a hilly are in northern Kashmir and is primarily a horticulture community dependent on apple production. Althouh the village is not located by the forests, it is visited by Asiatic black bears and leopards. Until recently, there wasn’t a problem between wildlife and people. Bears would roam within the limits of the deep gorge for food, away from human habitations. However, recently it has become a problem for area residents because the bears have started to move up toward human habitation.
The new problem is partly attributed to the excess apples collecting in a small gorge along the roadside. Initially this practice didn’t bring conflict. However, now the bears know there is easy food here so their visits to the village have become more frequent. Wildlife SOS was able to confirm the reports by visiting the location and collecting bear sign data.
The team from Wildlife SOS was able to find multiple pug marks in the fresh snow and the presence of a potential denning area located close to human habitations. Although there were apple trees in the lower areas, the villagers said they couldn’t care for them because of the threat of bears being present there.
Once the potential bear threats were realized, Wildlife SOS initiated the process of mitigating this conflict situation by calling a meeting with all the orchard owners. There was a discussion on what has changed in the community that would have prompted a change in the behavior of the bears. Then a strategy was laid out to keep the people safe and the bears unharmed. Stress was laid on following certain do’s and don’ts pertaining to black bear conflicts. In the long run it was decided to follow a plan on managing the fruit wastes during the harvest, which in this case was the main reason for the problem.
The Wildlife SOS team surveyed the village and found the community to be open with no walls or fences aroud their homes. It was recommended to block certain points that serve as the main entry points for wildlife. People were advised not to wander around along and move out of their homes in early morning or late evenings. It was also reinforced that the bears in the denning area needed to be left alone.
Pamphlets about being ‘Bear Safe’ were distributed to the villagers. By keeping people safe, it is more likely that the bears will be left alone and left to live pecefully.