Less than four years after they were removed from Ohio’s Endangered and Threatened Species list, bobcats are slated to be added to Ohio’s list of trappable fur bearing animals. On February 8, 2018 the Ohio Division of Wildlife issued proposed rule changes for Winter 2018, among which included the opening of a bobcat trapping season to begin in January 2019. This proposal came about several weeks after a public proclamation from the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Concerned biologists, citizens and other groups have come together under “Save Ohio’s Bobcats II” (The II was added as Save Ohio’s Bobcats was already taken by a now defunct group.) to stop the heedless decision before it can take affect.
“The data collected from these bobcats would provide scientists with a better idea of the population in Ohio,” claims a statement by the Division. However, Ohio’s Division of Wildlife has evidence that growth of the population is being driven by migration from established populations, rather than reproduction within the population. This means that removing parts of the population in established areas, such as those approved for trapping, could negatively impact newly forming populations outside of the trapping zones.
Citing research on bobcat populations as one of the primary reasons to open a season, the Division’s statement did not mention that they’ve been collecting and performing necropsies on roadkill bobcats for the past decade, and it is unclear what additional data a trapping season could provide. A draft Bobcat Management Plan was produced from the previous years of research, but was never finalized or released. The Plan used genetic data obtained from roadkill to outline the uncertainty of the population dynamics of Ohio’s bobcats, as well as evidence that the population is driven by immigration, not births, meaning that trapping bobcats in areas where they are plentiful could harm the growth of newly forming populations outside of the trapping zone.
Along with their own research, the Division granted $245,000 in October 2017 to a population modeling project to be implemented at Ohio University over the “next 4 years to develop a population model to understand the viability of Ohio’s recovering bobcat population, and inform bobcat management and conservation.” This project makes use of non-lethal means to collect bobcat DNA and photos to create a model to predict how the population grows and changes. For all of the money spent on research, the Division is selling single-cat take permits for $5. “If it’s indeed accurate that trappers would be charged $5.00 for a permit to trap bobcats, it’s quite a deal.” said a biologist in the group, referencing Ohio Revised Code 1501: 31-16-01 that values a single bobcat at $500.
The Division of Wildlife is required by law to “Plan, develop, and institute programs and policies based on the best available information”. With their own research confirming the fact that the current population cannot sustain harvest, and further research still underway, it would appear there is little information supporting the decision to open a season for bobcats.
Save Ohio’s Bobcats is rapidly growing and garnering support from biologists, citizens and other environmental action groups. Interested parties may join the Save Ohio’s Bobcats II Facebook page to learn more and get involved.
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