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Despite the leopard (Panthera pardus) being a highly conflict-prone species with a wide distribution range, there are few population estimates of this species in Karnataka, especially outside protected areas. Effective conservation of this large carnivore and mitigation measures towards leopard conflict requires reliable estimates of population density in various habitats and landscapes with different management priorities. We conducted a population estimation exercise for the leopard using photographic capture-recapture analysis, using spatially explicit capture–recapture (SECR) models, in the multiple-use forests in Bhadravathi Division in central-interior Karnataka. Density estimates for leopards in this 370 km2 area, which includes 14 state, minor forests and sandal reserves, all continuous to each other, was found to be 11.1/100 km2 (95% CI 9.7-12.2/100 km2) with an estimated population size of 44 individuals (95% CI 39-49). We also recorded 14 species of large and small leopard prey from this area including gaur, sambar, chital, barking deer, four-horned antelope, wild pig and mouse deer. Using publicly available forest cover analyses tools, we estimate that the area has lost forest cover of ~14% since their notification between 1905 and 1941. We propose that the forest areas surveyed be declared as a wildlife sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 to uphold to their rich wildlife values.