I mentioned a bit ago that some yahoos have been trapping bobcats in my neighborhood. That trapping has attracted the attention of reporter Louis Sahagun, who cracked the lid off the topic this weekend with an article in the Los Angeles Times. Sahagun interviewed some of my neighbors as well as a couple of trappers, one of whom — Mercer Lawing of Barstow, California — came up with this little bon mot:
“We love those animals more than the people who are complaining about us trapping them do.”
That link above is to Mercer Lawing’s bobcat trap business page, which contains potentially disturbing photos. He took down his Facebook page yesterday after my followup piece at KCET linked to it. I’m sure that was just a coincidence.
I’d been meaning to write something at KCET on the issue for a couple weeks, and since Sahagun had done all the hard work and beaten me to it, I followed his article with an analysis of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s epically crappy science on bobcats, and a call to ban bobcat trapping in California altogether.
My KCET piece is here. Short version:
The last time anyone came close to counting bobcat numbers in California was in the 1970s. Back then an estimated 72,000 cats lived in the state, and a scientific panel established by President Ford figured hunters and trappers could take one fifth of that population every year without damaging the species in California. The actual science was so tenuous that a judge stopped exports of California bobcat pelts in 1982, saying trade in pelts could resume only when the Fish and Wildlife Service came up with more authoritative numbers. That never happened, and the ban on bobcat pelt exports was lifted a few months later when changes in the federal Endangered Species Act made the case moot.
In the 30 years since, California bobcat trappers have had no limit on the number of cats they can kill. Five a day, ten, a thousand? It’s all the same to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Aside from the trapping season, which runs from November through January, the only limit on bobcat trapping is that DFW closes the season early if the haul reaches 14,400 cats — a fifth of the controversial population estimate in the 1970s, which has not been updated. As the price of spotted cat fur goes up, the haul of California bobcats does too, with DFW sitting on its hands as long as that magical “14,400 dead cats” number isn’t reached.
Check out the whole KCET piece for more detail on that, plus a natural history story about how bobcats might be Joshua trees’ best ally in a warming world.
As someone who likes to eat venison, I’m no anti-hunt person per se. But essentially unregulated trapping of top-level carnivores is altogether different. And doing so with no scientific justification is even worse.
The Center for Biological Diversity, which has also been tracking the issue, has set up an action alert page where Californians can send a preformatted but editable letter to the appropriate California legislator urging them to ban bobcat trapping in the state. I hope you’ll consider signing it and sharing it around your circles, should you have friends in California.
And a few bobcat enthusiasts in my neighborhood have set up a site called Project Bobcat, where they’ll be posting updates and background information. Check it out.