The job of wildlife officials can be dangerous and in extreme cases, fatal. When forest officials in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, India responded to a call regarding a sloth bear on Wednesday, they became victims themselves.
Earlier that day, locals reported that a bear had attacked several people in the area. At 12:30 a.m. local time, the forest staff arrived at the area and attempted to complete a rescue mission. Originally, the intention of the mission was to capture the bear, unharmed. However, as the officials laid out a net to catch the creature, the situation turned deadly.
The forest department released a video capturing the moment in which officials fired a shot at the bear. In the video, the bear charges at the forest department team as they struggle to hold up a net. Officials at first try to ward off the bear by spraying it before a shot is fired. The bear then retreats, presumably injured.
Watch below to see the sloth bear attack.
In order to “save their lives,” one forest official opened fire, killing the sloth bear. While this was not the goal of the rescue mission, the department stated that this action was necessary to prevent the bear from further attacking and killing members of the responding team.
“Immediately, a 15-membered team of the department that was patrolling the area reached the spot and tried to catch the bear by throwing a net,” the forest department reported in a statement. “However, the bear attacked the team and injured five people.”
Sloth Bears Might Be One of India’s Deadliest Animals
Episodes like the one that Uttarakhand forest officials faced are fairly common all across the country. Sloth bears are a native species to the area and inhabit 19 of India’s 36 states and territories as well as several surrounding Asian nations.
According to National Geographic, the species is responsible for thousands of attacks and hundreds of deaths in the country. In India, state data seems to indicate “the sloth bear is one of the deadliest animals in India, and is responsible for more human fatalities per capita than any other type of bear.”
Despite the number of sloth bear attacks, there are only 20,000 spread throughout Asia, making them a “vulnerable” species, according to the International Union Conservation of Nature. Because of this status, India tries to preserve its numbers by capturing and relocating bears when possible. However, because these bears tend to attack immediately when faced with a human, this leads to many injuries and deaths. As cities and populations continue to grow in India and across Asia, it’s likely interactions with sloth bears will continue to rise.