Bobcat advocates have two victories to celebrate this week. On Tuesday, the Indiana Natural Resources Commission voted to withdraw a contentious proposal to open a trophy hunting and trapping season on the state’s only native wild cat, for the first time in nearly 50 years. And on Thursday evening the Ohio Wildlife Council voted to “indefinitely postpone” a similar proposal. This means that bobcats in Ohio will continue to enjoy their protections until the council considers the proposed rules again.
Thousands of residents in both states spoke out against these misguided and unscientific proposals. In fact, comments from Indiana residents opposed to bobcat hunting and trapping outnumbered those in favor by a nearly 11 to 1 ratio. In Ohio, comments opposed to bobcat trapping outnumbered those in favor by a whopping 77 to 1 ratio.
Both the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Division of Wildlife were forced to acknowledge that they didn’t even have a current population estimate for bobcats in their respective states. In fact, the Division of Wildlife’s own research proposal stated that it would advise against a trapping season until further studies had been completed. At the Natural Resources Commission meeting, Indiana’s director of the DNR acknowledged that this was clearly a sensitive issue to many and pledged to work with more constituencies on these kinds of rules in the future.
Killing bobcats does not make sense. Nobody eats them, and they’re not overpopulated or causing significant issues with livestock and pets in Indiana and Ohio. These animals weigh only slightly more than the average house cat and do not pose a public safety risk. The hunting seasons would have benefited just a few people looking to sell bobcat pelts to overseas fur markets or to kill bobcats for trophies.
The beauty of bobcats is their greatest downfall. Trappers target them to make a quick buck off their spotted fur and often resort to crude methods of killing the cats, like bludgeoning, drowning or strangulation, because bullets or arrows might damage the value of the pelts. This commercialization of wildlife benefits just a small group of individuals, while robbing the rest of the public of the joy of seeing these striking, mysterious and somewhat elusive creatures alive in the wild.
It’s high time that state wildlife agencies stop catering to the wishes of trophy hunters and trappers and acknowledge the wishes of the general public that values wildlife alive and flourishing. Indiana’s and Ohio’s bobcats – and all wildlife, for that matter – are held in the public trust and belong to everyone – not just those who seek to exploit them for their fur or a trophy.
In addition to its action on bobcats, the Indiana NRC also withdrew a similarly contentious proposal mandating that nuisance wildlife control officers kill all coyotes, opossums and raccoons they catch.
Let’s take a moment today to celebrate the win for the bobcats, while not forgetting that there are many more battles ahead that we need to fight to protect wildlife, and all animals.
P.S. As many advocates are aware, one group of American carnivores is now in grave peril: grizzly bears, just removed from the Endangered Species List, face potential trophy hunting seasons in Wyoming and Idaho this year, unless we can stop them. Idaho has already approved its season, and Wyoming’s Game and Fish Commission will vote on the grizzlies’ fate on May 23rd. Please contact Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and ask him to stop the proposed trophy hunting season.