Bowing to an enormous outpouring of public concern and outrage, combined with compelling arguments that made its original plan vulnerable to a legal challenge, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission today voted to withdraw a proposal to initiate a bobcat hunting, hounding, and trapping season. It is a stunning turnaround for bobcats – protected in the state since 1989 – and it prevents, at least for the foreseeable future, the killing of these gorgeous animals for their pelts and heads. Our New Hampshire state director, Lindsay Hamrick, was a leader in the fight and rallied thousands of New Hampshire citizens to object to the plan.
Emails obtained by The HSUS showed that despite thousands of comments submitted by state residents opposing the proposal, several commissioners had made up their minds prior to the public comment period, and intentionally disregarded any input from what they called the “antis,” or non-hunting New Hampshire residents. But so many citizens stood side-by-side in challenging the proposal, and multiple hunters, biologists, conservationists, animal welfare activists, and trappers spoke out against it. Hundreds of people showed up to testify against the proposal at public hearings.
A key moment came when The HSUS persuaded the state’s Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR) to challenge the propriety of the Fish and Game Commission’s original 5-4 vote on the proposal in February. JLCAR decided to formally object to the proposal on the grounds – set forward in a legal comment submitted by The HSUS – that it violated the Endangered Species Act and exposed the state to unacceptable legal and financial liabilities. This determination no doubt led directly to today’s game-changing decision by the Fish and Game Commission.
But even as we celebrate the victory for bobcats in the Granite State, we have other big fights for predators brewing elsewhere, and none more high profile than our efforts to protect grizzly bears in the northern Rockies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed stripping federal protections under the Endangered Species Act for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and wildlife authorities from Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have already made clear their intentions to open up trophy hunting seasons on the bears.
A majority of Americans want Yellowstone’s grizzly bears not dead but alive: a new national poll shows that 55 percent of them oppose the FWS proposal to remove federal protections for grizzly bears in Yellowstone, and an overwhelming percent of people, 68 percent in a nationwide sample, oppose trophy hunting.
Yesterday, HSUS staff members joined hundreds of citizens —hunters, environmentalists, animal advocates, and local residents—in Bozeman, Montana, to voice our concerns at the second of only two public hearings that the FWS is holding on the delisting. We did the same at the FWS hearing on Monday in Cody, Wyoming. We are urging FWS to extend the comment period on this proposal from May 10 for an additional 60 days so that more people have time to weigh in.
Attitudes toward these animals have undergone a sea change since America’s early settlers and their descendants nearly wiped out the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states. Today, according to the poll conducted by Remington Research Group on behalf of The HSUS and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, more than 80 percent of Americans believe the grizzlies are a valuable part of the Yellowstone area.
Grizzlies, considered the most famous bears in the world, are worth far more alive than dead. In 2013, Yellowstone Park alone received 3.2 million visits, worth $382 million, as tourists flooded the area to catch a glimpse of its beautiful surroundings and, of course, its magnificent wildlife – including the most famous and studied bear, Grizzly 399. Grizzly bears are a big part of the economic equation and among the most coveted of sights for visitors to the park.
I remember the first time I saw a grizzly in Yellowstone – that image is still fixed in my head and it’s perhaps the most memorable experience I’ve ever had at Yellowstone or any other park.
Today, as we celebrate the lifesaving win for bobcats in New Hampshire, let’s not forget that delisting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bear will surely result in the persecution of these beautiful animals and a decline in their population. Join me in opposing this ill-conceived proposal and tell FWS to maintain federal protections for these bears.