Bobcat populations threatened by extended hunting season despite activist objections

Bobcat populations threatened by extended hunting season despite activist objections

LANSING, Mich. — In the southern Lower Peninsula, hunters and trappers can now shoot bobcats in the fall.

Members of the Natural Resource Commission voted 7-0 on Thursday to expand the bobcat season to nine more counties: Muskegon, Montcalm, Gratiot, Saginaw, Ottawa, Kent, Ionia, Clinton, and Shiawassee, over the objections of animal activists.

Wildcats with bobbed tails, which are nearly twice the size of cats, vanished from the Lower Peninsula following the logging boom in the late 1800s, but are now found in every Michigan county.

State officials enlarged the hunting and trapping season in the northern Lower Peninsula to 20 days with two full weekends, in addition to creating an 11-day season in the southern counties. The hunter’s limit stays at one.

“The population is fairly resilient and able to absorb harvest pressure,” said Adam Bump, a bear and furbearer specialist for the Department of Natural Resources, which recommended the expanded season.

“When we’re opening those nine counties, we’re really just opening a larger area to harvest the same population.”

National Resources Commissioner David Nyberg said state data indicates the bobcat population is expanding and can support an expanded hunt.

“We’re also going to be able to further support the actual act of conservation through the funding of licensed dollars that supports that work,” Nyberg said.

Expanding bobcat hunting to the southern Lower Peninsula means more people can buy licenses that fund the state’s wildlife conservation efforts.

In 2020, some 13,400 people registered to hunt or trap a bobcat. It costs $15 for a furbearer hunting license for those ages 10 and 64. That price drops to $6 for people who are 65 and older.

Proponents say the expansion won’t impact the population of bobcats because they are hard to hunt and trap. One Michigan survey found that only 365 of 2,810 people who hunted bobcats in northern Michigan bagged one.

Michael Schippa of Michigan Versatile Hunting Dog Federation said he’s been catching and releasing bobcats for 25 years. He said he believes bobcats in Michigan have come from states like Ohio and Indiana.

“The expansion is a very conservative approach that the DNR has taken,” Schippa said. “We have animals going back and forth across state borders. We will always have that exchange.”

But animal advocates oppose the hunts because the bobcats are primarily killed for their pelts.

“This proposed expansion will cause untold harm to bobcats and kittens hunting and trapping orphan dependent kittens, leaving them to starve or die of predation or closure,” said Molly Tamulevich, the Michigan director for Humane Society of the United States.

Another speaker, Trish Marie, said she worries the expanded hunt will increase the rodent population in the southern Lower Peninsula.

“I have a kajillion squirrels covering my property and the primary prey of bobcats is squirrels,” Marie said. “Bobcats play an important role in keeping the number of squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents down.”

Marie also noted that the DNR is recommending expanding bobcat season when other states are restricting or banning killing the animal.

Some states, including Illinois and Colorado, have considered legislation to ban hunting and trapping bobcats. California prohibited hunts outright in 2019, and Iowa last year dropped plans to expand hunting due to resident opposition.

This article was first published by The Michigan Environment Watch on 10 March 2022. Lead Image: Bobcat hunting and trapping is now allowed in nine southern Lower Peninsula counties. (Shutterstock).

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