Dont get confused with the picture. High up on the hiils at Rakcham one can sure find snow leopards. But this was not the case with our close encounter. A few days back a leopard crossed our backyard. Around evening a local driver passing by our house saw a big one take a leap from across the road and landing in our backyard. He stopped the car and called me up but we could see nothing. Most probably it came from the hills on the backside for water and was going back. On its way back it picked up a village dog who normally spend the night in the fields next to our backyard. In the morning we could only see footprints – distinct from the regular hoof marks of the regular visitors – cows, lambs and goats but similar to our cat paw prints – just four size bigger!
Yes, Leopards are common here but mostly they stay high up where they hunt lambs, goats, deer among others. In winter withe the snow covering the terrain they come down alongwith bears in search of food. While the bear is happy plundering the few apples left on backyard or the domestic stores the leopards hunt stray cattle and dogs. A lot of sheep-dogs wear metal collars for protection from sudden attack by this big cat. Its a common sight for locals and they are not perturbed as leopards never attack adult men or women. There are several sightings but this time it was close to the village.
On a lighter side a few of my friends advised me to keep an offering of Gimti – the stuffed colon dish for the leopard which might make him a total vegetarian! I am waiting for a full-moon night which might give me an option to see the big cat, though nowadays we prefer to get inside early after sunset.