Thursday, January 26, 2012

Phil Brown: DEC Proposes Killing More Bobcats

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed a five-year plan for managing bobcats that aims to “provide sustainable use and enjoyment of bobcat by the public.”

How would the department achieve this goal? By allowing the public to kill more bobcats.

I suspect that many people do not agree that the best way to enjoy bobcats is to shoot or trap them.

Maybe DEC suspects this, too. In a press release this week, the department buries the news. After boilerplate quotes from DEC officials and a list of the plan’s goals, the press release states: “The plan includes proposals to greatly simplify hunting and trapping season dates by making them consistent throughout much of the state as well as establishing new hunting and trapping opportunities in central and western New York.”

For details, you have to go to the plan itself. The biggest change is that large parts of central New York and the Southern Tier would now be open to the hunting and trapping of bobcats. The season would run from October 15 to the Friday before the start of the regular big-game season.

Other policy changes include:

1. A bobcat season also would be initiated (for hunting and trapping) in a smaller region just north of New York City. It would run from October 15 to February 15.

2. In the Adirondacks (and the rest of the North Country), the trapping season would be extended about two months. As a result, both hunting and trapping seasons would run from October 15 to February 15.

3. In Tug Hill, both the trapping and hunting seasons would be extended to February 15 as well.

DEC estimates that the state has about five thousand bobcats. Although the population has been growing, bobcats have not been a frequent nuisance. “Bobcats are not usually found near areas of high human development and negative interactions with humans are uncommon,” the plan says. “Livestock depredations, while rare, do occur in some areas of the state.”

Thus, the main purpose for the policy change is to provide hunters and trappers more opportunities to kill bobcats, either as trophies or for pelts (which can fetch $50 to $200).

In recent years, sportsmen have harvested between four hundred and five hundred bobcats a year. DEC estimates that fewer than a hundred additional bobcats a year will be killed if its plan takes effect. The department says the bobcat population can easily withstand the loss of that many specimens.

Thus, there seems to be little reason to object to the plan unless you oppose hunting and/or trapping.

I’m not writing this to take a stand one way or the other. I just think people should know about this plan, because it could be controversial.

You can read the plan on DEC’s website by clicking here. Comments will be accepted through February 16. They can be e-mailed to (type “Bobcat Plan” in the subject line).

Meantime, feel free to share your thoughts here as well.

Bobcat photo by Larry Master.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.

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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

28 Responses

  1. Gerry Rising says:

    Thanks for providing this information. I’m with you on keeping an open mind, but that is more difficult living on the Niagara Frontier from which they have been essentially extirpated. Although I have seen bobcats in FL and PA, I have never seen one in NY.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    I wish someone had the guts to pass a law that would require those who kill to eat what they kill. If they aren’t going to eat it, they shouldn’t be allowed to kill it.
    Killing for the sake of killing should be illegal.
    And speaking of managing populations, what about the human population which is out of control and is destroying the environment?

  3. Paul says:

    Speaking as a hunter I personally see almost no reason for a Bobcat hunting season. It is a real treat to see one of these animals in the woods I personally would never kill one.

    Trapping is different. Pete there they are taking the pelts so it isn’t just killing for the sake of killing as you say. For some of the “hunters” you are probably right.

    I also think that these changes (like they say) will have almost no impact, at least on the hunting side. My guess is that most Bobcats are killed by hunters that are primarily after other species. Most hunters with the exception of rabbit hunters (and there are not many of us) are done hunting well before February.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    Paul, nothing against trapping. I was just going off the deep end to make a point.

  5. Phil Brown says:

    Coincidentally, Susan Morse, the wildlife biologist and tracker, will be giving a talk on bobcats at the Whallonsburg Grange tonight at 7 p.m. It is hosted by Northeast Wilderness Trust.

  6. RD Jim says:

    BAM! Crimity, I’m really enjoying that bobcat… look at him dance. Son, are you enjoying your bobcat? “Daddy, he’s bleeding.”

  7. Dave says:

    This almost reads like an article on the Onion. “To provide enjoyment of the bobcat we are going to kill it.”

    We really need a new model for wildlife management.

  8. hawk says:

    I think we need to “manage” humans, much more then we need to manage bobcats.

  9. hawk says:

    I think we need to “manage” humans, much more then we need to manage bobcats.

  10. Mick says:

    Another Joe Martens stroke of genius. Maybe Mrs. M. needs a new fur coat or something.

    So when this predator’s population is reduced, which predator will keep the Coy Dog population in check.

    Very bad idea.

  11. broadwinged says:

    Opposed to hunting of bobcats, and opposed to trapping anything in this day and age. What’s a pelt used for anyway? Decoration?

  12. Pete Klein says:

    Considering the fact the DEC has fewer Rangers and EnCon Officers to catch the criminals, it makes no sense to loosen any of the game taking laws.
    You’d think they want to turn the woods into the Wild, Wild West.

  13. Paul says:

    Pete, it probably makes it easier to police in some cases with a longer season. For example you would not have to worry about arresting someone for shooting a coyote out of season if the season never ends!

  14. Owl Gorge says:

    5000 bobcats statewide. That’s not a lot of animals. I say the idea of hunting bobcats for fun is SICK! It should be banned altogether, as well as trapping them. Leave the poor bobcats alone! Killing animals for recreation or their pelts is twisted. Hunting for meat is another matter, or to allow it for sensible population management, such as with deer. But predator hunting is unjustified. We need to move on from this barbaric behavior.

  15. Pete Klein says:

    All seasons should end. There shouldn’t be any open seasons, except for bottles and cans.

  16. Ed says:

    I’ve hunted and fished all my life,tried trapping when I was young but couldn’t stomach how cruel it really is. Leave the poor cats alone,humans are the real problem,that becomes clearer everyday.

  17. Steve Hall says:

    Are 5,000 bobcats enough for New York State? Is it possible to “enjoy” these beautiful mesopredators without killing them? Shouldn’t “new hunting and trapping opportunities” actually be set to improve the balance in our ecosystem? Our environment is a top-down system of balances, in which, broadly stated, predators control prey animals, which more often than not, are herbivores, which control vegetation. This is a process called “trophic cascades”. Disruptions at any level have repercussions, which “cascade” through the system. For example, the extirpation of wolves and cougars, each “keystone” predators, has resulted in an explosion of white-tail deer, which over-browse their target vegetation (thus enabling invasive species which spread because they are not eaten by local fauna), survival of diseased deer who normally would be culled by predators, and therefore the spreading of contagious diseases like CWD, sometimes resulting in regional collapse of the white tail population. You would think that our hunting and trapping regulations would be written to assist in promoting the balance, rather than fostering an imbalance. In the absence of cougars and wolves, the only control of deer is through hunting, a sport whose numbers are dwindling, and through coywolves, our local coyote hybrids, who do a reasonable job of impacting deer numbers. Yet in New York, the coywolf hunting season is more than twice the length of the deer hunting season.
    Bobcat are key controllers of rodents and small mammals, including fawns. Subsistence hunting is a key controller in our ecosystem, but who eats bobcat? Trapping is an inherently flawed sport, because it not only takes targeted prey, it also kills unintended prey. At the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington, we have attempted to rescue at least four raptors in the last year, including a bald eagle, who have ended up in traps meant for varmints. Three of these raptors, two red-tailed hawks and a barred owl, had to be euthanized. We have documented evidence of dogs and cats killed by traps. Trapping often causes its victims a slow and agonizing death, and in many documented cases, the animal will chew off its own leg to effect its escape. These traps do not legally need to be checked by the trapper more than once every 24 to 48 hours, depending on which region the trap is set in, which means the captive animal not only may suffer for long periods, but runs the additional risk of drawing in predators attracted by the noise of the creature’s struggles, and who will naturally take advantage of the creature’s inability to flee. When will our hunting regulations be driven by science rather than interest groups?

  18. TiSentinel65 says:

    To all the naysayers above. DEC has proposed expanding the season because they believe that the bobcat’s population expansion in the state can support it. Whether you believe trapping is barbaric or not, trapping is legal in N.Y. State. Stop trying to step on the toes of people who are trying to supplement thier incomes by a legitimate means. If you have not noticed, the economy is in decline. Not everybody can afford a strip steak or drive a BMW. The not as fortunate survive by doing what they can. That involves fishing, hunting, and trapping. The attitudes expressed here are born out of complete ignorance for the realities that thier neighbors face. You people need to get your heads checked.

  19. Dave says:

    Yes Ti, trapping is legal… but killing more of these animals in an extended season is not yet the law.

    I’d like to remind everyone reading and commenting that the DEC is looking for your input about this plan. Email them here to tell them what you think about it: (use the subject line: Bobcat Plan)

    To address your other point, Ti, I don’t think anyone buys this notion that there are people who would not survive if they were not allowed to kill bobcats for trophies and pelts.

  20. Steve Hall says:

    Seems to me, Ti, that in a well functioning society, laws change when new information emerges that contradict the utility or fairness of any given law, for example, child labor, slavery and even the use of steel toothed traps. Your argument seems to rest on the fact that trapping is legal in New York today, and the dubious supposition that people who trap wild animals have no other choice. You ignore other factors, such as the trapping of unintended targets, the fact that traps in the Daks need only be checked every 48 hours, the derivitive fact that trapping generally involves more unnecessary suffering than does subsistence hunting, and the fact that synthetic fur is less expensive, more durable, and often gives a better appearance.

  21. Pete Klein says:

    This is the 21st Century. If someone needs to trap anything to survive, they won’t. Or as the Republicans say, “If you can’t find work, it’s your fault.”

  22. TiSentinel65 says:

    Mr. Hall, When you speak of unintended targets I can assume you are talking about pets. Under state law your pets are not to run free on state land period. So a certain amount of responsibility has to be assumed by the owner. People that make the argument against trapping, have no argument. It is their own personal oppinion that humans can eliminate animals suffering. In nature animals suffer all the time. I once saw a deer get mauled by a pack of domestic dogs. Talk about suffering. They were eating its hind quarters while it was still alive. An animal caught in a leg trap in no way suffers as much. A body gripping trap kills very quickly. This notion that everything in nature can live in pure bliss is nothing more than a smoke screen perpetuated by the people that are dead set against trapping, hunting, fishing, or any other activity that causes duress to any animal. Take away the gains of the industrial revolution, another thing to rally against for these types of people, and guess what? Your survival is going to depend on your ingrained instinct to hunt, trap, gather and sow. Man is a predator. His eyes are forward facing for a reason. Stop looking at life through your own lens and look through the eyes of what others see. Trapping is not morally wrong.

  23. Pete Klein says:

    You are becoming silly. Not all trapping and traps take place on state land.
    Yes, all animals including humans do suffer so what is the point there?
    No one is advocating a diet of vegetables for predators, including humans.
    You mention predators starting to eat before their prey is dead. This only proves they hunt to eat, not for the sport of it.
    I agree life in the animal kingdom can be very harsh. Just look at the wars humans wage and the criminal justice system.
    By the way, I am not opposed to trapping or hunting.

  24. Steve Hall says:

    Ti, there is no need to assume my saying anything. I said what I said. If you go back and read my comment, you’ll find it said: “At the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington, we have attempted to rescue at least four raptors in the last year, including a bald eagle, who have ended up in traps meant for varmints. Three of these raptors, two red-tailed hawks and a barred owl, had to be euthanized.” The point is that when you set your traps, you not only can not guarantee that you will snare the critters you want, but you may end up with not only untargeted species, but protected species, as well, which is what birds of prey are. You know it, and I know it. The rest of your post is a series of straw arguments driven by non sequiturs: I never suggested that we could end animal suffering, nor did I claim that nature is “pure bliss”. Anatomically. humans are frugivores, while behaviourly, we are omnivores. Our eyes do not look forward because we are hunters, but because our ancestors, who were fruit and seed eaters, had binocular vision. These are all facts, Ti. I do not drive a BMW, and I decline to debate within a world that does not exist, i.e., without the gains of the industrial revolution. I am, on the other hand, a rational human being, and when I absorb information which contradicts my current beliefs on a given subject, I change those beliefs. I am always willing and eager to learn, so if you will address the points I actually made, or put forward some additional points, while ending the name calling, we may both learn something in the Forum.

  25. TiSentinel65 says:

    Mr. Hall, the law says you will check your traps every 24 hours in certain zones, 48 in others. Driving your vehicle to work could be considered a flawed source of transportation becasue inevitably you hit some form of wild life. The numbers of animals killed by cars rivals those that are purposely targeted during hunting and trapping seasons. I did read your article. Why did you not advocate eschewing your ride in favor of something that would be more friendly to the wild life that regurally get flattened on our roads. Oh that’s right. Most hypocrates completely ingnore or downplay any affect they have while completely trying to eviscerate everybody else in defense of their coveted position. The numbers of animals in your refuge say what? That raptor numbers are on the rise. The corelation of their demise in the past can be blamed on many factors. I believe the greatest was the use of DDT.

  26. Steve Hall says:

    Ti, the difference between driving and trapping is that the driver is not trying to strike animals. The aim of DDT was to kill agricultural pests, not raptors, and when the effects of biomagnification were uncovered, DDT was banned, so this is a particularly ineffective analogy for your viewpoint. Again, you dance around the issue, and accuse others of saying things they didn’t say. You keep dragging in hunting to prevent isolating your defense of trapping, while I’ve said repeatedly that we support subsistence hunting, particularly where it supports the balance of nature, as in deer hunting. Seriously, look up the definition for “straw man” and “non sequitur”, as understanding these concepts will sharpen your discussion skills. If you love wildlife, come see us at the Refuge, you’ll get to meet many of these creatures up close. You may even end up volunteering!

  27. TiSentinel65 says:

    The net result is the same, unintended consequences. I am pretty sure the trappers were not happy catching the birds as no one is happy when they hit something with thier car. I will leave it that, we agree to disagree somewhat. I do love wildlife, albeit through the conservationists eye, using our flora and fauna as a resource to be properly managed, just as DEC has proposed for the bobcat.

  28. Bill & Marie says:

    We agree with every word that Steve Hall posted. He is “SPOT ON”! No need for further comment.

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