An adult Leopard cat (Felis Bengalensis) was killed on the spot when a speeding motorist crushed it on the Wangkha highway in Chukha this week on 9 April.
The dead felid having sustained major injury on its body and the lower abdominal area succumbed to the injury. It was first spotted by Pema Loday, a Gewog Administrative Officer of Bjacho gewog in Chukha when he was passing by the road. The incident was known to have occurred around 5 to 7 am in the morning. It is a rare wildlife species locally known as Bjazig.
“The sex of the cat could not be determined as it was crushed”, Pema Loday said. Judging by the wheel tracks on the accident spot, officials believe that the animal might have been killed by a truck. Officials said with the leopard cat being about the size of a domestic cat, the trucker might have mistaken it for a common household cat.
However, when Pema Loday returned home in the evening the carcass was gone. He suspects that some passerby might have taken it for the cat’s beautiful patterned skin.
Forest Officials also added that if not an intentional killing, it might have been carelessness on the part of the man behind the wheel. “With better and wider asphalted road, speeding vehicles often run over wildlife. This is the major threat in developed countries and is increasingly becoming a trend in Bhutan too.
The forest officials said that giving awareness and educating the people behind the wheel is one of the solutions. “Unfortunately, it is not possible to station forest officials on the road to monitor such things.” Hence, the department will work in close collaboration with enforcement agencies such as Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) and traffic police.
As per the field guide to the mammals of Bhutan the leopard cat is described as having a similarity with the household cat except that it has longer legs. It has spots and marks on the body similar to that of leopards and looks like a miniature leopard, but it doesn’t have rosettes on its coat but instead has solid black spots or patches. The guide further describes that the cat is nocturnal but occasionally hunts during the daytime. The cat is found to be a solitary except during the mating season.
The normal size of the cat ranges from 35-60 cms while the normal cat would weigh 3-7 kgs.
The leopard cat is one of the most adaptable cats. It occurs from tropical rain forest to temperate broadleaf and coniferous forest as well as shrubs and grasslands.