A leopard strayed into a village in West Bengal's Darjeeling district yesterday and severely injured several policemen and forest guards who were trying to tranquillise it. Five villagers were also injured.

The Hindu newspaper's website reported that the leopard died after it was taken to a veterinary centre in the town of Sukna.

The Hindu quoted Forest Department officials as saying the leopard had strayed into Salugara village, either from the Baikunthapur range or the Mahananda reserve forest.

"It was spotted near a house in the morning by villagers who raised an alarm, and this startled the leopard," Kanchan Banerjee, a forest ranger in the Sukna Wildlife Range, told the Hindu. "With the villagers trying to chase it, it tried to flee and injured five villagers in the process. Then, the leopard took shelter in an abandoned house."

Villagers contacted Forest Department officials who arrived later with policemen and forest guards.

"The animal pounced upon a forest guard when he tried to tranquillise it at the house, injuring him critically," Banerjee said. "The leopard fled from the site and took shelter in the bushes at the end of the village.

"The forest guards were able to locate it, and as they were approaching the spot in an open-hood vehicle, the leopard pounced. Three policemen were severely injured."

The leopard was tranquillised but also suffered injuries, as the policemen had used batons and knives. It later died at the Sukna veterinary centre.