Staying vigilant to keep ban on bobcat trapping
Bobcat numbers plummeted over a century ago, and the species was eliminated from Ohio by the mid-1800s. It took decades for bobcats to begin to repopulate in the state. While bobcat numbers have risen since the 1970s, thanks to their status as an endangered species within the state, their recovery is far from complete and currently remains in jeopardy as those protections were removed in 2014. In October 2017, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) research report warned of the unpredictable consequences of prematurely allowing a bobcat-trapping season. “While is it widely acknowledged that the population is rebounding in Ohio…there is little information about the status of the population, the numerical trends, the rate of population expansion,” the document goes on to state. “Such information is critical before decisions are taken on opening a trapping season.” In fact, there have been no more than 200 confirmed sightings of bobcats in the state.
Despite these facts, in early 2018 ODNR proposed a regulation to leg-hold trap native bobcats, even though the status of their population is unknown. ODNR has contracted for a multi-year study led by Ohio University to determine Ohio’s bobcat population, yet ODNR was still willing to open the trapping season on this predator before they knew whether trapping would decimate the population. There is no economic benefit to a bobcat season, yet ODNR proposed allowing this cruel and barbaric kill method to be reestablished to cater to a small group of constituents. The proposed bobcat season would have allowed for a take of 60 animals; and at an average value of between $50 – $100 per pelt, the financial take would be at most $6,000. The economics do not trump the value of a healthy bobcat population, based on its critical role in keeping ecological balance and potential tourism dollars (“Bobcat Economic Value Study”–see Wildlife Protection Resources).
Ohio’s animal welfare community, including OAA, attended monthly meetings of the Ohio Wildlife Council to monitor and testify in opposition to the bobcat trapping proposal. In addition to the hours of testimony, over 8,000 comments were submitted to ODNR in opposition to this inhumane and unscientific proposal. In addition to the inhumane killing of a vulnerable species, advocates made it clear that many of Ohio’s companion animals have been maimed or killed in leghold traps.
After many months of tireless advocacy, Ohio’s animal welfare community succeeded in killing the bobcat trapping proposal–a huge win for native wildlife in Ohio. What happened to Ohio’s bobcats in 2018 is an example of the overall attack on the dwindling wildlife populations in Ohio. Ohio’s animal welfare community must stay vigilant in its efforts to protect bobcats and other native wildlife, working to ensure that trapping is banned at the state and local levels.