Bill Would Ban Bobcat Trapping in California

Silhouetted bobcats | Photo © David Jesse McChesney

After a Joshua Tree property owner's announcement that he'd found a bobcat trap illegally placed on his land sparked statewide outrage, a bill has been introduced into the state legislature that would end the state's nearly unregulated bobcat trapping season.

Story Continues Below
Support KCET

The Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 (AB 1213), introduced by Assembly member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), would ban both trapping of bobcats and the sale of their pelts. Bobcat hunting by means other than trapping would remain legal.

The bill was introduced after Joshua Tree resident Tom O'Key's discovery of bobcat traps on his land, set there by trapper Nathan Brock, was described in an article by the Los Angeles Times' Louis Sahagun. Statewide attention to the issue ensued.

Bobcat trapping is currently legal in California during the allotted trapping season, which runs from November 24 through January 31. Licensed trappers can take any number of cats they are able to trap during that period: the only limit on the "harvest" is that the state closes the season once the total number of pelts recorded reaches 14,400. That rather arbitrary-seeming number is a fifth of the cats' statewide numbers as estimated in the late 1970s. That estimate was effectively rebutted in a court case I describe here, and no further statewide census has ever been performed. And as desert journalist Steve Brown points out in a recent article in the Sun Runner, that statewide limit of 14,400 cats means that local bobcat populations could easily be wiped out without triggering Fish and Wildlife's closing of that year's season.

If it passes, Bloom's bill would take effect on January 1, 2014, meaning that it would end the upcoming bobcat trapping season on December 31, 2013.

"Under California's antiquated trapping laws, it's perfectly legal for trappers to line the boundary of a national park with traps, kill the park's wildlife, and ship the animals' pelts to China," said Brendan Cummings, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Wildlands Program, in a press release lauding AB 1213. "Assemblyman Bloom's bill is an important step in bringing California's wildlife law into the 21st century."

Predictably, the community of bobcat trappers in California -- fewer than 200 in the state last year, according to Fish and Wildlife -- is stalwartly opposed to the bill, though a sense of defeatism seems to hang over trappers' discussions online, as witness this comment by a Virginia-based sympathizer:

No matter what efforts everybody makes, there is a ZERO percent chance of defeating this bill. Kalifornia is way to [sic] far gone. I spend alot [sic] of time there because my wife's family is from Hollywood, and the people are 80% crazy.

Those trappers on that lnked thread who aren't so pessimistic suggest that Fish and Wildlife might offer a way out of the problem by providing data to prove bobcat populations in California are being sustainably managed.

Which would be a neat trick.

Chris Clarke is an environmental writer of two decades standing. He writes from Joshua Tree regularly at his acclaimed blog Coyote Crossing and comments on desert issues on KCET weekly. Read his recent posts here and follow him on Twitter.

About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
RSS icon

Previous

Forest Service Chief Talks Climate Change -- in Washington and on the Ground

Next

Forest to Faucet: Why National Forests Are More Than Recreational Spaces

LEAVE A COMMENT Leave Comment  

user-pic

Thanks for keeping on top of this important issue, Chris.

For anyone interested, I have compiled a list of the 15-member Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee, with all the pertinent contact info (names, addresses, emails, phone, fax). AB 1213 will most likely be assigned to this committee in the near future, and support letters are needed NOW. (Ditto AB 711, by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, to ban the use of lead for ALL hunting.)

Anyone wishing a copy can email me at the address below.

Cheers,
Eric Mills, coordinator
ACTION FOR ANIMALS - Oakland
Email - afa@mcn.org

user-pic

It figures that Chris Clarke would find some sympathetic liberal's ignorantly misinformed ear to write a bill to ban yet another perfectly effective low cost method of vermin control.

Understand this, bobcat are a vermin species just like coyote. They are not endangered or threatened they are in fact increasing in population throughout the state and threatening the balance of other truly endangered species and causing havoc for farm animal husbandry. Trapping is the only cost effective and humane method to manage their population numbers. Do not let emotional these are cute critters of the PETA mind sets shut down scientifically safe and healthy methods of wildlife management practices.

Lets go over some more of these facts

First, there has been no statewide outrage. In fact the isolated trespass issue of a single trap found on one persons private property has not made any press, anywhere accept in the articles written by Clarke and published in KCET's web blog and a small back page oped snipit in the la times web blog that is it folks. Secondly he could not find a sponsor of his proposed law changes from any representatives of area's that have bobcat or bobcat habitat including the Joshua Tree area. Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) is a city slicker where he lives is all high rise buildings with socialist rent control he thinks bobcat are small cute little pet cats that should be house broken. He has never seen a wild bobcat or would now what he was looking at if he ever did see one. Third he claims only 200 bobcat hunter's/trappers are opposed to his bill try more like 1,800,000+ liscensed hunters are opposed to his bill.

Clarke states there is no limit to the number of bob cat taken and that trappers could "line the national park with traps". That is a flat out lie. Bob cat hunters/trappers can only take 5 per year. The total allowable take of bobcat by all hunters/trappers for California is 14,000+ the actual recorded total take was just over 1800 so hunters/trappers are not even making a dent in the populations and we must seek additional ways to reduce the population less irreparable harm come to the habitat and an increase in farm depredation. Clarke's proposed law changes would make it even more difficult for hunters/trappers and property owners to harvest them. Because of these strict regulations we already have there is virtually no profit in the hunters take of bobcat and hence the already reduced numbers in the take.

Face it folks Bob Clarke is just another sympathetic PETA supporter opposed to all hunting/trapping and fishing everywhere. The science behind the facts are quite clear bobcat are not endangered or threatened by anything, their population numbers are increasing and becoming a serious management issue with damage occurring to REAL threatened and endangered species like the desert tortoise, chuckwalla, and horned lizard, desert fox just to name a few not including birds that are on the bobcats dinner plate and why trapping is a essential tool in their management. It is so sorry that a trap was placed on that PETA supporters property, they should have asked first and of course she never thanked them for keeping her pets of the bobcat dinner plate.

user-pic

Among the many errors in ChrisW's comment are three important enough to merit correction.

1) I had nothing to do with introducing the bill. I did not encourage Richard Bloom to introduce it. I have never spoken to Bloom. I did not write the bill.

2) Chris W referred to my description of California's lack of limits on bobcat trapping as a "flat-out lie," but he should have made sure to check his facts. The five cats per season limit he claims applies solely to hunters. Trappers are under no such limit. Don't believe me? Check out the State of California's guide to trapping laws and regulations, downloadable here, which says:

Bobcats taken under the authority of a trapping license shall be taken with traps or other means in accordance with this section and Sections 265, 465, 465.5 and 475. Bobcats taken under a trapping license must be tagged in accordance with the provisions of Section 479.
(a) Trapping Season and Area: Bobcat may only be taken under the authority of a trapping license as follows:
(1) Area: Statewide.
(2) Season: November 24 through January 31.
(b) Hunting Season and Area: Bobcats may only be taken under the authority of a hunting license and bobcat hunting tags as follows:
(1) Area: Statewide.
(2) Season: October 15 through February 28.
(c) Bag and Possession Limit:
(1) Bobcats taken under a hunting license and bobcat hunting tags: Five bobcats per season.
(2) Bobcats taken under a trapping license: No limit.

[Emphasis added.]

3. Since my original article saw print, I've been deluged with mail from all around the state, from representatives of animal rights organizations and wildlife groups to individuals from urban and rural counties. I was surprised at just how strong the sentiment is in favor of a statewide ban on bobcat trapping, even among hunters and anglers. This is not just a story about a couple hippies in Joshua Tree and an environmentalist-leaning KCET writer. People in California are in fact ready to work to get this barbaric practice banned.

user-pic

The fact is that there are few too many rodents (that spread seriously dangerous diseases such as leptospirosis and plague) and too few predators. By putting bounties on the heads of those that keep disease-spreading rodents in check, we are putting our entire ecosystem at risk. Ranchers and urbanites can squeal and wail about their puffy dogs and such being snacks for coyotes and bobcats, but the fact is, they wouldn't much like the swarms of lesptospirosis-carrying rats and plague-carrying ground squirrels that would converge on California suburbs and cities without our much maligned omnivores such as the bobcat. Plus, they're cute and fuzzy. Much more so than rats. Seriously, this is a no brainer. The ecosystem needs higher order carnivores, or else we're all screwed. Killing off bobcats is just sealing our own inevitable death warrant.

user-pic

Obviously we can all see that Clarke has never read the DFG regulation that the limited take of bobcat is 5 per hunter/trapper per season. One can only purchase 5 tags per year including the trapper, a flaw in the regulations however that does not give "unlimited" take to trappers as he cannot buy more than 5 tags per year.Thank you Clarke for pointing that out.

Saying you did not approach or tell Bloom what to write in his bill is not provable you will have to have him make that statement. Irregardless he still has no clue or association to those in Joshua Tree or anywhere else in the state with bobcat issues. He is an outsider telling the rural folks how to deal with their problems and a PETA himself.

Your perception of a huge response to your diatribe is obvoiusly a bias since you cannot even find local Joshua tree support other than the one lady with the tresspass problem. Admit it you are opposed to hunting period you are a PETA type supporter if not a full fledged member.

user-pic

Thank you, Assembly member Bloom. I am one long-time Joshua Tree resident who does not appreciate people coming from outside to poach the wildlife in this area. For the record, I do not belong to PETA. Also, I'm quite sure nobody tells you what to say or how to write a bill. It is refreshing when a 'city slicker' cares about his rural neighbors concerns.

user-pic

Well lets go over some more facts. Clarke is asking the DFW to perform the greatest magical trick ever an actual head count of every bobcat in the state. This is impossible.
Estimating bobcat is the only possible way not an actual head count, and Clarke knows this. The DFW has indeed performed estimation tasks every year and Clarke knows this. An estimation is done first by understanding the nature of the beast knowing it's habits, diet, breeding characteristics and ability to adapt to available habitat. In this bobcat are nearly identical to coyote. Next is the study of the condition of the available habitat how it has faired due to climate conditions, development, fire and the rise and fall of other dependant species populations i.e. it's food source. Next is the tabulation of actual visual sightings, radio collar studies, depredation reports, depredation takes, and than actual hunters/trappers take. This is all identical to how coyote populations are estimated and every other game mammal. The federal fish and wildlife uses the exact same methods internationally and in part why the case Clarke talks about became moot. Bobcat have a regulated hunting season and coyote do not. Coyote can be hunted and trapped all year long and there is no limit. Yet because, and only because, bobcat are "cute" and thought of as pets Clarke and others like him want to ban it altogether. Clarke and people like him play upon the emotions of the people they don't look at the science or facts and check for every loop whole that they can to succeed in their goals, a ban on all hunting of all game. They are PETA.

user-pic

Thank you, Assembly member Bloom. I am one long-time Joshua Tree resident who does not appreciate people coming from outside to poach the wildlife in this area. For the record, I do not belong to PETA. Also, I'm quite sure nobody tells you what to say or how to write a bill. It is refreshing when a 'city slicker' cares about his rural neighbors concerns.

user-pic

Tedd Quinn- Bloom is also a PETA sympathizer, he is also a hypocrite. He is quick to tell others how to live outside his district but refuses to except email communications from those outside his district. In that he could easily say the majority of the communication he receives regarding the matter is in his support considering the politics of his district, liberal socialist. Which is far from the truth, as well as your accusation, poaching is the taking of game with out license out of season and never in the above discussion or article. Clarke as well as now you and Bloom want a complete ban on hunting. This is unscientific, emotional rhetoric and not needed.

user-pic

At this point, Chris W, you are just making stuff up wholesale. Cut it out.

user-pic

Clarke- it is you fabricateing lies to meet your goals of a ban on all hunting. Notice folks, he attacked me without proving me wrong and does not deny he wants a complete ban. This is typicle PETA behaviour folks.

user-pic

Hey guys,

Thanks again for commenting with such passion on this issue. I just want to make sure that hyperbole and fact are not getting conflated. We want this to be a safe space to logically discuss the facts at hand. If things get out of control, then it can discourage others from participating.

Best,

Zach Behrens
Editor-in-Chief of Blogs, KCET-TV

user-pic

Thank you Zach.
In response to Eric mills post ab 711 is also a sham attempt to ban hunting and is not supported by the sciences, better information is found at huntforthetruth.org

user-pic

California's Trapping Seasons and Regulations are set by the CA FISH and GAME COMMISSION and the DFG - and supported by ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT reports as required by STATE and FEDERAL LAWS - seasons for any given species is set in accordance with field data extrapolated and then applied to suitable habitat grids to determine accurate population figures -

The point the EMOTIONAL ARGUEMENT over trapping BOBCAT$ has taken is irrelevant to true historic data - actual reported harvest numbers of bobcats in recent and past years - as well as the fact that a CRIMINAL TREPASS / TRAP SETTING on private land does not constitute a threat to endanger the statewide population of BOBCATS - to suggest so is quite ridiculous.

Furthermore - the STATE of CALIFORNIA severely restricted commercial trapping by limiting trapping to the use of BOX TRAPS only - outlawing snares, leg-hold, body gripping type traps and other types of crushing - paw gripping devices - that restrain animals back in 1996 / 7 - as well as making commercial trapping with these devices a crime - ?

First is was the leg-hold trap without offset jaws - then it was the steel leg - hold trap period - then it was the soft - catch - spring loaded - swiveled trap required by the STATE for 3 years - now the ANTI - MAN - people want to ban trapping of bobcats forever - any type of trap ? WHY STOP THERE - WHY NOT BAN TRAPPING ANY TYPE OF ANIMAL that MOVES - CRAWLS - SWIMS ?

The whole argument is anti - anthropic / anti - man and elevates animals to some GOD LIKE STATUS of complete LUNACY -
Trapping is a compensatory mortality - meaning - trapping the furbearer population of CALIFORNIA has little effect on the overall population - due to the low numbers of animals harvested by trappers per year - yet trapping allows man the ability to manage animal damage to crops and livestock - as well as the habitat - and provide a more healthy environment for all species - while maintaining bio-diversity and good conservation goals .

Any other argument is simply not based upon scientific evidence - BOBCATS in CALIFORNIA are plentiful and not in DANGER of any loss of population as a whole - the BOBCAT population is closely linked to the population of the DESERT COTTONTAIL and JACKRABBITS - the primary food source -

Presently BOX TRAPS ( LIVE CAPTURE DEVICES) are required by law - required to be tagged with a TRAPPER ID NUMBER and checked every 24 hours - and the animal caught either released or reduced to a kill. Many trappers have taken to letting females and kittens go - due to low prices on certain specimens - rubbing - and size - so this BOX TRAPPING has helped to promote a more robust population of BOBCATS versus what the animal rights people would have you believe.

The facts speak clearly - all emotions aside - YES - these animals are beautiful and to see one free in the wild - truly a treat - but negation of useful wildlife management tools is not the answer for an emotionally based issue - perhaps more PUBLIC EDUCATION as to WHY TRAPPING CAN BE A GOOD THING - and these trappers are required to take STATE CONTROLLED TRAINING COURSES before they are ever issued a license - it is all so controlled - including the tagging / sealing of BOBCAT PELTS - and the marketing regulations -

Check up on these hard to find facts -

GOOGLE - Department of FIsh and GAME - CALIFORNIA -
California Fish and GAME Commission -

Trapping Regulations -
Trapping Seasons -
Educate yourselves with the true facts - CALIFORNIA is creating a situation for itself by such restrictive laws - that the past free services offered by trappers and hunters will no longer be available and the habitat and the environment - the overall bio-diversity of the land will suffer as a result of this -

More Mountain Lion incidences , more coyote attacks on pets and children - more rabid bobcats - raccoons - skunks - etc. Why ?
Because trappers take a lot of these other species incidental to BOBCATS or used to - before the outlawing of the leg-hold / soft catch / snares -

I am sorry to say - I hope to be leaving CALIFORNIA SOON - so I can once again - enjoy the freedom of an INDEPENDENT TRAPPER -

adios

TRAPPER ED