Target: California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Goal: Make bobcat trapping illegal year round.
Every year in California, trappers manage to capture and skin nearly two thousand bobcats. The pelts of these wild cats are valuable to trappers as they can fetch upwards of $600 to $1,000 in markets like China, Russia, and Greece. While there is a legal season during which bobcat trapping is allowed, trappers often poach bobcats from private property and national parks. Aside from the obvious cruelty and legality issues, there is also the issue of the bobcat population. While according to official numbers trapping and hunting as many as 14,400 bobcats yearly should leave the bobcat population viable, the truth is no one is certain how many bobcats there are in the wild.
Set by the Federal Government and maintained by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the official limit to bobcats trapped of 14,400 is based on an estimate that was taken of the population in the late 1970s. That estimate allows for one fifth (14,400) of the population to be culled each year. Even then these estimates were challenged in court as they were deemed to have been based on faulty information about population numbers and the rate at which bobcats could restore their population. As a result of the case, the court ordered a ban on the trapping of bobcats until such time as reliable studies could provide accurate estimates of population numbers. Months later the ban was lifted coinciding with changes to the Endangered Species Act. Subsequently the previous quota of 14,400 was reinstated and has been in use for the last thirty years.
In the small hamlet of Joshua Hills, California, locals have lived in close proximity to bobcat populations for decades. Living on the edge of the protected Joshua Hills National Park where bobcat populations live, residents have been privy to a special relationship with the bobcats which has allowed them to watch families grow and develop. However, recently locals have noticed that many of the bobcats they are familiar with are nowhere to be found. Unable to trap for bobcats within park boundaries, trappers set their traps just outside where bobcats often stray—and this includes the private property of Joshua Tree’s locals.
Trappers who once stayed off private and protected property are now unabashedly placing traps on private property. What allows for any of this, however, is that trapping bobcats is legal. In being legal during parts of the year, trapping become a lucrative business and often lucrative businesses encourage illicit behavior. Hunting of bobcats without a clear idea about population statistics is dangerous. It is dangerous to the bobcats; it is dangerous to the ecosystems which depend on their presence as a top predator; it is dangerous to ecotourism; and it is profitable to a select group of trappers and pelt dealers. Sign below to show your support for making bobcat trapping illegal.
Dear California Department of Fish and Wildlife,
Bobcat trapping for the sale of pelts to foreign markets is deplorable and irresponsible. Current estimates of bobcat populations are based on faulty figures from the late 1970s. There is currently no reliable study which indicates what the maximum allowable number of bobcats trapped should be. As such the yearly cull of nearly two thousand bobcats cannot be said to have no detrimental impact to either the bobcat population, or the ecosystems which are dependent on the bobcats.
Furthermore, trappers have been trapping on private property just outside National Park boundaries. The bobcats that stray outside of the parks boundaries should still be afforded the protection of wildlife that resides in the park. If we continue to turn a blind eye to this behavior there is no telling how far trappers will go to make a quick buck. The consequences to the bobcat, the parks, and the economies that rely on the ecotourism of the parks could be disastrous. The potential negative repercussions of bobcat trapping greatly outweigh the benefits to a few trappers and pelt dealers. Please put an end to this abhorrent practice and make bobcat trapping illegal year round.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Svadilfari via Flickr