Why California Should Ban Bobcat Trapping

A bobcat in the San Emigdio Mountains | Photo: Zach Behrens/KCET

With Louis Sahagun's devastating article this weekend in the Los Angeles Times, the outside world learned what those of us in Joshua Tree have known for some time: our bobcats are being trapped and killed for the profit of a very few people. But what the Times article didn't say was that bobcat trapping in California as a whole is an archaic practice based on bad science, which should have been made illegal long ago.

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Sahagun provides the basics of a controversy that has roiled the little hamlet of Joshua Tree, where I live. My friend Tom O'Key found a bobcat trap on his land, placed there by trapper Nathan Brock, an active-duty Marine stationed at Twentynine Palms. O'Key publicized his find, and the town erupted.

Some locals had known about bobcat trapping for a long time. Local journalist Steve Brown had written extensively about the issue in his publication The Sun Runner, including the chilling revelation that trappers monitor social media for wildlife lovers' bobcat photos to determine where to set their traps. (Which is why I'm not telling you precisely where the bobcat photo at the top of this article was taken.)

Despite Brown's work, O'Key's discovery shocked more than a few locals. Some of my neighbors are getting organized to fight the trappers. Many were surprised to learn that bobcat trapping is even legal. But not only is it legal, it is very nearly unregulated. There is a trapping season from November 24 through January 31, and you must have a trapper's license to take cats legally during that season. But once you've jumped that low hurdle, you can pretty much denude the landscape of bobcats. As long as you set your traps in season, you can kill as many bobcats as you want. The only limit is that once trappers kill 14,400 bobcats in the state, the season closes. That's an awfully high bar.

There's a longer season for bobcat hunting, and it's a problematic practice as well, but it's much harder to hunt a bobcat than to trap one. Most bobcats "harvested" in California are caught by trappers.

Since Prop 4 passed in 1998, it's illegal to trap any wild animal in California using a leghold or similar trap. Bobcat trappers here tend to use cage traps, as shown in this video:

Barstow resident Mercer Lawing is the manufacturer of a particularly sophisticated cage trap for bobcats, and is one of the Morongo Basin trappers quoted in Sahagun's piece. (He's the one that said the people who trap and kill bobcats love them more than those of us who want them alive and doing their job controlling rodent populations in our state's wildlands.) You can see the results of California bobcat traping in photos on Lawing's Facebook page. It isn't pretty. [Update: Lawing seems to have taken his Facebook page down, but you can still see the distressing photos of giant pelt collections on his main site.]

As long as the total haul people like Brock and Lawing take each year doesn't approach 14,400, though, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) maintains that the trapping season isn't hurting our bobcats. 14,400 is an oddly precise number, so it's natural to assume there's some science behind it. And there is: it's one fifth of California's bobcat population when that population was last estimated -- in the late 1970s.

Do the math: that's more than thirty years ago.

Bobcats are trapped for their pelts. Trappers will sometimes make efforts to sell other parts of the cats, shipping skulls and skeletons to scientific supply houses and such. But it's the pelts that drive the practice. Brock, the trapper that illegally placed his trap on Tom O'Key's land, told Louis Sahagun that a really good pelt can fetch $600 these days. In the last couple of years, pelts have fetched more than $1,000 at auction.

That wasn't always the case. Bobcat pelts were once considered a low-value fur. But when most countries signed on to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in the 1970s, higher-value spotted cat furs such as jaguar, leopard, and ocelot suddenly got a whole lot harder to sell internationally.

Bobcats weren't considered rare or endangered, so fur buyers who had been using other spotted cats started eyeing bobcats as fodder for their products. The bobcat's species, Lynx rufus, is listed under Appendix II of CITES, which includes species that may become endangered if their trade isn't regulated. Regulation of trade in Appendix II species is the responsibility of the exporter, so the U.S. became responsible for regulating export of bobcat pelts when bobcats were added to Appendix II in the mid-1970s.

As I said above, the Federal government established the current limit of 14,400 California bobcats killed per year in the late 1970s, based on studies whose authority was strongly challenged. Challenged in court, in fact: in 1979, the group Defenders of Wildlife sued to block export of bobcats from California, charging that the limit was based on faulty population estimates and assumptions about how quickly bobcats replenish their population after being hunted or trapped.

Defenders of Wildlife prevailed in court: a judge ordered a halt to export of bobcat pelts from California in 1982, and said that freeze could be lifted only when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) came up with scientifically accurate estimates of California's bobcat population and its ability to absorb losses to trapping and hunting. FWS never provided that estimate, and yet the court order banning bobcat trapping was lifted in December 1982 when changes to the Endangered Species Act made the case legally moot.

Instead of using actual data, the state's Department of Fish and Game -- now renamed the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) -- has used that spurious 14,400-bobcat limit for the three decades since it was completely dismantled in a court of law.

Let's say that again: a court agreed that the bobcat quota for California was based on bad science back in 1982, and demanded that FWS provide data for bobcat hunt management that was actually scientifically valid. It never got that data, but thirty years later we're still using the same quota.

That's laughably bad practice for any wildlife management policy.

For managing a top-level predator, it's incredibly destructive.

Bobcats are less picky in their eating habits than some of their relatives like the lynx, but for the most part they eat rabbits and rodents. Like other predators, they act as a regulator on their prey populations. Without predators to keep them in check, prey populations explode.

Here's an example of how removing predators can have really bad effects. 2002 was a dry year in Joshua Tree, and scientists in the National Park here noticed that a number of Joshua trees were dying. On examination, they found that small mammals such as black-tailed jackrabbits and antelope ground squirrels were stripping the bark from Joshua trees to get at the moist tissue beneath, killing the trees in their quest for water. Such dry years are expected to increase in number and severity as the climate warms. Bobcats eat ground squirrels and jackrabbits. They're thus one of the Joshua tree's most important allies in a warming world.

If our bobcat management policy is based on 30-year-old data that a court of law found faulty back then, how sure can we be the trees will still have those allies when they need them?

Bobcat habitat has been steadily altered in the state of California since that deeply flawed number was pulled out of the air. Bobcats live throughout the state, and throughout the state forests have been cut down, desert habitat paved over for suburbs, roads built and the number of speeding drivers increased. If the number had any validity 30 years ago -- and it likely did not -- it's long since obsolete.

And yet because the take of bobcats hasn't approached the DFW's magical "14,400 dead cats" level, the agency maintains bobcats are doing just fine. Even though for more than a generation, they couldn't be bothered to find out how many cats the state actually has.

The last time you took a long road trip, did you assume you had enough gas because you checked the gas gauge a couple days ago? No one would do that. But that's how DFW manages California's bobcat population: letting the "supply" of bobcats go uncounted for more than three decades as we burn through a thousand or more each year. In the 2011-2012 season, DFW reports an estimated 1,813 bobcats killed in California. That number likely rose in the 2012-2013 season.

Bobcat trapping is bad science. It's inhumane. It undermines our valuable tourism economy in much of California. People come here to see wildlife, not pelts.

It's time California banned this ludicrous, unsupportable practice. DFW should abide by the spirit of the court decision handed down in 1982 that ordered the trap season stopped until we have some real science about bobcat numbers in California. It's time for California's bobcat trapping season to become an embarrassing footnote to California's history.

If DFW won't do that, perhaps our new Democratic supermajority in Sacramento will do it for them. Whether by agency fiat or getting a new law passed, we need to ban bobcat trapping in California, and we need to do it now.

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.
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Good article Chris, thank you. I'll print and show it to Buck tonight.

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Thanks, Mr. Clarke--a good and informative article. I'll be dispersing accordingly.

For those interested in getting laws on the the books to ban this archaic and brutal practice:

ALL LEGISLATORS MAY BE WRITTEN C/O THE STATE CAPITOL, SACRAMENTO, CA 95814. Deadline for introduction of new bills this year is February 25.

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Thanks for putting "harvested" in quotes, Chris. I effing hate that word. They use it all the time here in Michissippi. Bobcats are not soybeans!

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Thanks for the real story. It sounds like another example of government facilitated corporate welfare, welfare as in profit for a few who are in no way poor. And that welfare is at the expense of the environment (loss of a necessary predator) and of us who enjoy the rare glimpse of a bobcat. I'm passing both articles on to my state senator and representative.

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Chris Clarke is an idiot, Bob Cats are a varmint species like coyote that quickly over populate and become an extreme issue with land owners that have pets or raise food animals or livestock. They are a completely renewable resource and are not threatened or endangered at all. In fact some locations the populations are so numerous there is a bounty for their capture and removal. Let the fish and wildlife agency manage these as they are not some unscientific emotional these are cute critters ideology.

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Sadly, ChrisW, only the first five words of your comment come anywhere near being correct. The rest are pretty much rebutted by the DFW's own report on the bobcat "harvest" each year. My observations on the history of bobcat trapping science in California come directly from DFW. Don't like my conclusions? Take it up with them.

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It is Chris Clarke's conclusions that are an emotional unscientific rant. The DFW report does not come to any conclusion whatsoever that bob cats are threatened or endangered and in fact they are increasing in population. This is a renewable resource, game management which includes hunting and trapping has proven to be a success story not a faulty one as Clark attests too. READ the reports it all there, don't let PETA ideology limit the hands of true scientific game management.

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Far from not wanting readers to see that 2011 Bobcat Harvest Report to which ChrisW links, I absolutely urge readers to look at the document. Despite ChrisW's misleading representation of the report, it actually supports what I say here in the background section, and then goes on to say that the bobcat population is fine based solely on the fact that the take hasn't reached that magic 14,400 cats number that was tossed out on its ear by a judge in 1982.

Trapping defenders just don't have a scientific leg to stand on here.

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Clarke- We have more legs than we know what to do with... I repeat there is no eveidence that supports the need to stop the hunting of bob cats the report shows an increase in populations READ the report.

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Pharyngula lurker here, Chris. It's been my observation that the second people hear the word "predator," they automatically assume that said predators kill and eat livestock. A bobcat isn't very big--just a bit larger than a housecat--yet when I was working in New Mexico I discovered that a rancher there was convinced a bobcat known to be in the area was severely depleting his cattle herd. People have a very skewed idea of how predators actually work, thanks to stories like Little Red Riding Hood, Peter and the Wolf, and The Three Little Pigs. They never actually take the time to educate themselves on predator behavior or to realize that they are predators themselves.

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Erin- I don't know what planet you came off of but I do know the difference between Mt. Lion and the not so lowly little bobcat. As for Mt lion by the way the DFW states that they should be returned to game status and hunting allowed as populations now exceed habitat needs and they are issuing depredation permits almost every month, Bobcat have their own niche and can decimate native bird populations such as quail, pheasant, and native reptiles like lizards and tortoise which are endangered and threatened. They can and do take down game their size or bigger often taking young fawn deer and they can and do take down sheep foals. They also play havoc with farmers that want to have free range chickens and with out hesitation have taken family pet cats or small dogs. Again READING the reports shows a steady increase in bobcat population numbers there is no call needed for any ban on hunting or trapping and, since bobcat are fast breeders, a renewable resource so there is no cause for alarm. There is ample support from hunting/trapping license fees to sustain the current effective management as well as the economy surrounding it. Clarke it is obviously blowing emotional unscientific anti-hunting PETA flatulence and has no clue what he is talking about. I am appalled that KCET bought into his lies in the first place.

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ChrisW, treat the other commenters here with respect or you will lose your welcome here.

Reading those reports shows no such thing. It shows an increase in bobcats trapped.

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Chris W, do you seriously have to see my credentials to know I'm qualified to have an opinion? Since you asked, M.S. in biology, and a long-time hunting advocate. I did read the report, as it happens, and it seems you neglected to take a long, hard, unbiased look at the tables. Yeah, bobcats can take down smaller livestock. Here, I was only talking about cattle. And since a bobcat is native to the ecosystem, it does far less harm to bird and other small mammal populations than, say, feral cats. The very fact that you refer to bobcats as varmints gives me a good idea of your mindset on this. Just because you disagree with Mr. Clarke's point of view does not make him (or me) a PETA person. Most responsible biologists I know detest PETA (as do I).

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Clarke- I have the utmost respect for sound science and wildlife but for your inflammatory and false ideology there can be none found. I repeat there is no scientific evidence that merits a ban on the hunting and trapping of a common varmint that has been hunted for eons and done so quite effectively under present game management practices. A ban would only cause harm to their populations as well as endanger further other wildlife issues as well as private property issues. NO BAN NEEDED

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Erin- It is you that made accusatory remarks implicating I did not know the difference between Mt. Lion and bobcat. It is also well known that bobcat are a predatory varmint and even in the off season depredation permits are issued and in some cases not needed at all. Bobcat are exactly like coyote and fill in the same niche but also are far more effective bird hunters and it is feral cats that are the bobcats greatest threat to their existence with the introduction of disease and habitat destruction. You claim to be a biologist yet do nothing to clarify these facts? and still attack me? this shows you are in the same camp as Clarke a willfully mal and miss-informed anti-hunting ideologist. PETA member or not your ideology appears the same.

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ChrisW,Your comments seem to suggest that harvesting bobcats provides a needed service to the ecosystem and society at large. So would you be willing to provide such considerate and noble acts, philanthropically, with the commercial value of pelts set at zero?

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Joaquin- Commercial value to pelts is irrelevant to the game management of bobcat. That hunters can get a return on their investment to participate in the scientific management is only logical and fair. If you have a problem with fur don't wear it, but for others they like it and use what they want to. It is in no way wasteful to do so and in the circle of life the responsible thing to do.

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ChrisW,Commercial value of pelts is not irrelevant, it underscores a motivating factor. If the resource value was zero, I suspect the interest in harvesting bobcats as a service would be diminished as well. By the way, since you've injected the issue of waste into the discussion, how do you rate the taste of bobcat meat?

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Joaquin- Again pelt value is irrelevant and impossible to regulate. That the harvesting of bobcat is a benefit to ranchers is true since their property and interests are then protected. As for the hunter benefiting that is offset by the costs entailed to do so. Traps cost money, firearms and ammunition costs money licensing and tags cost money add in transportation, labor, processing foreign competition and these all add up to well over the return on average pelt prices. Additionally a Ca. hunter can only take 5 bobcat per year. So in actuality most hunters operate at a loss. Bobcat tastes good! mix it in a sausage and add other meats and flavorings and I can make it taste better than any tofu you have every had.

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ChrisW
..."impossible to regulate"--fits precisely with your claim of "scientific management".

"Sausage" In other words, in need of masking agents; the common thread in the argument you've strung together.

By the way, you should really consider tofu trapping, there's no bag limit, saves ammo, and with sufficient spice and additive it can be made to taste like just about anything. An added bonus, the risk of toxoplasmosis is nil compared to cat meat.

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Joaquin- Ignorant remarks will get you no where. Pelt markets are driven by supply and demand, other states and countries so less regulated produce a lot more of the pelts on the market. It is Ca. regulations that have taken the value out of this discussion and why it is irrelevant. As for meat of any kind as well as your tofu there is a constant danger of E.coli and a host of other contaminants in market processed foods including getting a mule burger rather than angus. A hunter can control all those factors far better and I prefer my own harvested meats over what you can get at fresh and not so easy. As for "masking" this is all from Clarke and your PETA crowd trying to make it appear that Ca. bobcats are endangered and threatened which is far from any truth. Again NO BAN NEEDED.

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ChrisW, Believe me, I do not expect to get anywhere with a graduate from the ted nugent school of bioethics. Nevertheless, it is rather fascinating that bounty trapper is a garment you'd rather keep below the claim of ecosystem/livestock protector, and now a new layer; controlled hunter of uncontaminated meats.

Chew slowly your cat-meat sausages, and so long.

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Joaquin- So long good riddance, you are a classic example of ignorance and willful deception that resorts to intellectual insult when you have no case to support your baseless ideology. The facts are clear, Chris Clarke's editorial as well as your comments are nothing but PETA rehash with zero scientific bearing. Additionally bobcat are neither threatened or endangered in fact their populations are steadily increasing as evidenced by the DFW reports and increased depredation claims both in urban area's and on public lands. Hunting/trapping is the most ethical, cost effective and scientifically proven method to manage their populations in a manner suitable to the habitat while at the same time protecting true threatened and endangered species and supporting the states economy through business related income revenue and taxes. Accept the reality hunting/trapping is here to stay and there is no need to ban the practice at all.

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The trappers quoted in this article came off as reasonable, but that is not always the case. My uncle owns a chunk of land that comes up against the edge of the park and he has found traps and trappers on his property 4 times in the past year alone. He destroys the traps, and twice he has had to escort poachers off his property at gunpoint. Many of the people engaged in this reprehensible activity have the same mentality: Self appointed wildlife manager.They feel it is their right to exploit this PUBLIC rescource for their own personal gain, and they come up with some ridiculous excuses for doing so. Like poachers everywhere. I'm aware they are technically not "poachers" because they are exploiting a legal loophole. Nonetheless, this is poaching in spirit if not legally. Not yet anyway. This being California, there is a reasonable chance that enough public pressure will shut these people down.
ChrisW: you make a lot of baseless assertions here. You launch personal attacks. By your tone and language, your tiresome invocation of PETA, that old "varmint, pest species" trope, you are obviously an anti-enviro radical. Everyone here knows Chris Clarkes qualifications, his dedication to protecting our states natural rescources from this sort of irresponsible activity. So what exactly is your agenda? Exploiting these animals for fun and profit? Just grinding an axe? Any qualifications or evidence to back up your attacks, or are you simply trolling this article because Chris Clarke wrote it? Your blazingly intelligent opening statement,"Chris Clarke is an idiot." seems to indicate you are in fact an unqualified internet troll here to attack Mr. Clarke for his activities elsewhere. Care to explain yourself, or are we going to continue this circle jerk? If so, you can have the last word. I won't waste my time arguing with a troll who has no stake in the actual issue.

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CDoring- Chris Clarke may have many years of background as a writer but he is not a scientist nor does he have a clue about wildlife management. It does not take a degree to have an understanding of the sciences or be allowed the freedom of speech to write commentary on the subject. However, His position is standard PETA ideology and all of the associations he has wrote for or worked for are anti-hunting period. That is a bias which is unscientific and what qualifies he and you as idiots, end of story.

I did not disqualify his statements regarding trespassers or poaching only his attack on the subject of hunting/trapping and the status of bobcat, in contrary the truth to the matter is that bobcat are increasing in population as evidenced by the DFW reports and increased depredation permits. Hence, there is no cause for the banning of hunting or trapping.

For your understanding, Wildlife for the most part including bobcat are a renewable resource in so that they are correctly managed, again it does not require a degree to understand that. The harvesting of wildlife is a proven cost effective tool to manage wildlife in a manner sustainable to it's habitat if you were to have READ my previous posts you would have noted that.

As to my qualifications they are as good or better than that of yours or Clarke's and irrelevant, this is an op ed piece meant to attract commentary. Your personal attacks are typical of PETA alliances, and it is your personal attack along with your repetitive comment that is what is called of troll behavior. Unless you have some relevant topic to discuss regarding Bobcat I am done with you.

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Hey everybody,

Thanks for discussing this issue here. It's obviously one of passion with many sides. I love seeing all the sides come together.

But I did want to step in and do a little refereeing here. The personal attacks must stop. Keep to the issues and content of what is said. If you have a problem with someone's point-of-view or motives, state it, discuss it, and ask questions, but don't call them names.

Thanks for your time,

Zach Behrens
Editor-in-Chief, KCET.org

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Personal attacks?! I didn't launch any personal attacks, beyond intimating that you may be here specifically to attack Chris Clarke. I simply asked you to explain yourself. Opening a discussion with,"Chris Clarke is an idiot," now that IS a personal attack. You must have some agenda if you are willing to keep this going. I am just inquiring as to what that may be. I read all your previous posts, and you keep arguing in circles. You talk about DFW reports and increased depradation permits, but you provide no hard numbers or links to data. You allude to your qualifications, then get all defensive about your education. Are you a hunter, sir? An outdoorsman of any kind? I am, and I can assure you I have never had any association with PETA in my life.They tend to frown on us hunters. As an avid hunter I do, however, have some informal experience and interest in sustainable wildlife management. As an experienced hunter I know that you do not impact the population of a top tier predator in a small habitat ecosystem without knowing for DAMN sure what the population actually is. Yes, hunting/trapping are useful tools in managing wildlife populations, but you do need EXPERTS overseeing that management. The main thrust of this article is that Bobcat numbers are an UNKNOWN because the relevant agencies have not bothered to update their data in several decades. Also that it is at best unsavory that individuals are live trapping these beautiful and vital animals to slaughter for thier pelts which they then sell overseas for nauseating profits. I suppose, as a hunter, I have some bias against "trappers" since it takes actual knowledge and skill to stalk and kill a wild animal, rather than baiting a cage with food for a hungry animal to wander into. Also, I don't sell the pelts or meat from my kills. And I generally have only hunted prey animals, because it is rarely good for any ecosystem to kill off predators. As a lover of the outdoors, whether I am hunting or just wandering the wilderness, observing the birds and beasts, I have a vested interest in seeing to it that our wilderness areas stay healthy and whole. Mr. Clarke is passionate about much the same things,which is why I enjoy his writing. 
What is your stake in this, Chris W? Are you a trapper? A hunter? Have lost livestock or pets to this "varmint"?

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Cdoring- more personal attacks and rants will get you no where. However since the offending remark regarding being an idiot I made rattles you and Mr. Clarke I apologize.

I already posted a link to the current DFW report that shows in increase in population by relation too harvest totals, their is certainly other data that the DFW uses to estimate populations. However as with coyote it is near impossible to "go a field and count" varmints as Clarke demands, so you estimate populations based upon harvest totals, contact and predation reports both urban and rural , depredation requests and habitat conditions all of which are improved and increasing. There is no other method possible to "count" and come up with a magic number to satisfy Clarke's impossible demands and as he stated it is moot because of the federal law changes.

Bobcat are in the same niche as coyote which has an unlimited take year round and also are increasing in population with the same methods to estimate their populations. Bobcat breed up to 6 kittens per season just as coyote, prey on the same game and are more adept to taking fowl, hares and reptiles many of which are threatened and endangered. They will also take down small deer, farmers sheep, chickens and family pets all just like coyote. They adapt to their habitat and coexist with man in urban area's just as coyote and become a threat to urban interests just as coyote. However they are not a top tier predator, as coyote will take them as well as birds of prey and Mt. lion. Essentially there is very little difference between coyote and bobcat in population numbers or in the difference how they are harvested or how their carcass is treated with the exception of an unscientific need to limit bobcat harvest by a tag quota.

I already stated that due to the California quota system and related costs to a hunter that the return to a hunter on average pelt prices barely covers their costs so other than a personal challenge or providing a service there is very little cause or value for the hunter to gain from doing so and why the quota system was established in the first place. However unlike coyote which has no quota limit and a wide open market on pelts, coyote are increasing in population none the less.

So the real reason bobcat have a "quota" is not for any scientific management but purely emotional and political ones. They are cuter than a dog smaller than a lion so they are thought of as the pet cat which is WAY over populated and yet next to nothing is being done about it. Mr. Clarke has an affection towards wildlife as he does pet cats he seeks it no harm in this same manner. Just as your self righteous claims to being a higher ethical hunter than those talked of in the article you try an make it appear you are thinking of doing the "right thing" in supporting his ideology. But get this straight and perfectly clear he is opposed to ALL hunting period, just as PETA is and would roast you just as he roasted bobcat hunters above. Both of your positions are from emotional ones not scientific ones and drastic closures would be devastating to the health and well being of bobcat populations, other endangered and threatened species' as well as private property issues both urban and rural.

Obviously at this point it is quite clear that you and Mr. Clarke are not qualified to offer wildlife management suggestions to the well trained and educated staff of the California Department of fish and Wildlife, so again NO BAN NEEDED.

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ChrisW's relentless commentary, while entirely within his rights, gives ample demonstration as to why the prominence of comment sections make it so easy to distort an issue. The author of the article has demonstrated his credentials, laid out carefully-considered evidence, and come to a conclusion that he believes to be correct based on the facts at hand. Now, the comments section of his post is much larger than the original article, largely thanks to a single individual who has demonstrated no credentials other than a vested interest in continuing to hunt what he terms "varmints" - but his voice is so loud and relentless that it threatens to drown everyone else out. Not really sure this is what democracy looks like.

One quick question for ChrisW (or Mr. NO BAN NEEDED if we go by how he signs all his posts): If you are so concerned with your personal role in wildlife management and the impact of predators, particularly the feral housecats you cite, why aren't you out there trapping feral domestic cats rather than the natural predators that are forced to compete with them? To the best of my knowledge, there are no limits on feral cat "harvest", as long as you are humane in your methods and can establish that they don't belong to someone.