Rampaging Sloth Bear Attacks Six People, Escapes Capture

by Jon D. B.

Wildlife officials have issued a warning for the 50-mile radius around Bannerghatta National Park over concerns the sloth bear may be rabid.

The town of Attibele, India is still reeling from a string of frantic bear attacks over the last week. Six people were injured by what is believed to be the same sloth bear between the town and Bannerghatta National Park.

Altogether, over 100 BNP officials, alongside Wildlife, local police, and the forest department continue to search for the bear on foot. Darters and veterinarians are also in the fray, in hopes that any further attacks can be prevented. Both camera traps and drones search for the sloth bear, as well, but so far the animal has evaded capture.

Photos of the possibly-rabid bear during its attacking spree have been captured by India’s forest department. Officials now believe, however, that the individual has returned to its natural habitat.

“There have been no signs of the animal in the last three days. Four days back, the sloth bear was sighted at night near a temple in N Begur, which is 4-5 kilometers [2-3 miles] away from BNP,” a forest department’s senior official tells The New Indian Express Tuesday.

“So we are only hoping that it would have made its way back to the forest patch using its natural instinct. However, we are not letting our guard down,” the trade’s comprehensive report continues.

India’s Sloth Bear Attacks Baffle Officials

Originally, the bear attacked six individuals through Sunday, March 28 into the night of Monday, March 29. Wildlife officials believe the attacks took place while the large mammal was on the run out of Bannerghatta National Park.

The case becomes a bit more complicated, however, when India’s wildlife officials revealed that a similar sloth bear had been captured, then taken to Bannerghatta’s Biological Park rescue center a few days prior on March 20. The Hindu reports this particular bear escaped the safari area shortly after.

“If it is the escaped bear, it is harmless, as it is friendly towards humans,” NGO Wildlife SOS’s Arun A. Sha tells The Hindu. “But the area has wild bears too, which are passing close to villages due to water scarcity.”

As such, officials have their doubts that this string of bear attacks could be the same individual. Regardless, the situation is ongoing, and officials are urging local citizens to practice caution. The 50-mile radius around Bannerghatta National Park continues to be under warning. Monitoring will also continue over concerns the sloth bear may be rabid.

The attacks come as bears across the Norther Hemisphere re-enter the wilds after a long hibernation. In the U.S., Yellowstone National Park has issued their first grizzly bear sightings for 2021. The park is warning all guests to use extreme caution, as well. All bear species are more prone to dangerous encounters during this time.