Leopards in rural India sneak into human settlements for the pet dogs.Reuters file

A recent study has revealed that leopards sneak into human settlements in Indian villages not because humans have taken over their habitat but for their favourite prey - dogs.

The study, by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), showed that leopards hunt within human surroundings not because of human-wildlife conflicts.

The WCS released a statistical study, based on a research done in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district. The study revealed that 87 percent of leopards depend on domestic animals for their food and their favourite item on the list is dogs. Of that 87 percent, dogs become the largest prey at 39 percent while cats comprises to 15 percent of leopards' diet.

Surprisingly, the widely available goats that is seven times higher in population than dogs make up to only 11 percent of leopards' diet. Also, it's diet consist of 20 percent cows, sheep and pigs altogether.

While leopards' depends on 17 percent of assorted wild animals including rodents, monkeys, and mongoose and birds collectively, for the food.

"This is because goats are less accessible and often brought into pens at night, while dogs are largely allowed to wander freely," the study read.

Though this study might bring some relief to those living in areas frequently visited by leopards, "it also poses major challenges of managing conflict that occasionally breaks out," IANS quoted WCS Science Director and research co-author Ullas Karanth.

"During the past two-to-three decades, legal regulation of leopard hunting, increased conservation awareness and the rising numbers of feral dogs as prey have all led to an increase in leopard numbers outside of nature reserves in agricultural landscapes," he added.