Sun 10 Mar 2013
The discovery of bobcat traps set along the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park has angered “thousands of people,” The Los Angeles Times reported March 4. (The park straddles the Riverside County-San Bernardino County border.)
In response to the public “fury,” California Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has introduced the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 (AB 1213) to “ban trapping of bobcats for commercial purposes.” Even though a similar bill was defeated in 1993, I’m betting this one will be successful.
A bobcat pauses while strolling past Mitchell cabin last Thursday.
“Trappers are keenly interested in bobcats today because the price of a pelt has risen from $78 to about $700 since 2009 in China, Russia, Greece and other foreign markets,” The Times explained.
“Assemblyman Bloom’s bill is a critical step in bringing California’s antiquated wildlife laws into the 21st century,” Brendan Cummings, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s wildlands programs and a resident of the community of Joshua Tree, was quoted as saying. “Right now, it’s legal for trappers to line the boundary of a national park with traps, kill the park’s wildlife and ship their pelts overseas.”
Bobcats are becoming so common around homes in Point Reyes Station that a few have been trapped for preying on people’s animals, and at least one or two have ended up as roadkill. There have been no signs of anyone trapping bobcats for their pelts at the fringes of West Marin’s parks, thank God; however, without the Bobcat Protection Act, there will always be the potential for commercial trapping — if done quietly so as to avoid a fight with the neighbors.
“Although bobcats are trapped primarily for their fur, existing state law classifies them as ‘nongame mammals,’ and provides no limit on the number of bobcats that may be taken by a licensed trapper,” The Times added.
“Bloom’s proposal would reclassify bobcats as ‘fur-bearing mammals’ and make it illegal to trap them or to import, export, or sell any bobcat part or product.” Currently, trappers can get a license for $111.50, but they must check their traps daily and annually report their take to the state.
“Body gripping traps are already illegal in California,” The San Francisco Chronicle added, “so the bill would ban the use of wire mesh cages that trappers generally bait with cat food or carrion to lure the cats inside, causing the door to close.”
Lynx rufus shows off its bobbed tail.
An estimated 1,813 bobcats were taken in California during the 2011-12 license year, an increase of about 51 percent over the previous season, The Times quoted state wildlife authorities as saying. “Trappers took 1,499 of those bobcats, with hunters taking the rest.”
Assemblyman Bloom’s proposed legislation would not ban sport hunting of bobcats; however, it became illegal to use dogs to hunt bobcats or bears in California under a law that took effect Jan. 1. The law was authored by State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last September.
Bobcat outside my window.
“Bobcats can kill prey much bigger than themselves but usually eat rabbits, birds, mice, squirrels, and other smaller game,” according to the National Geographic. “The bobcat hunts by stealth, but delivers a deathblow with a leaping pounce that can cover 10 feet.”
I can’t imagine much opposition in West Marin to Assemblyman Bloom’s Bobcat Protection Act. Even the agricultural community can live with it since the proposed law would not prohibit killing bobcats that start preying on chickens or other farm animals.