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New Hampshire Fish & Game to Open Bobcat Season

Statement: Released 18 February 2016
by Kathy Henley, Northeast Wolf and Predator Organizer for Wildlands Network

Contact: ph 303-601-7125 email Kathy@wildlandsnetwork.org

Marlborough, NH: The New Hampshire Fish and Game commission has made the big decision to open a Bobcat hunting, trapping and hounding season after thousands of residents asked them not to. The Fish and Game Commission will be issuing 50 bobcat permits through a lottery. The timing of the draft season will be December for trapping and January for hunting. An online petition gathered just under 14,000 signatures to keep bobcats protected. A recent survey of NH residents found that 62 percent of voters oppose the trapping and trophy hunting of bobcats in New Hampshire, while only 25 percent support a hunt.

Bobcat hunting was outlawed in New Hampshire in 1989 because the animals were nearly extinct in the state due to hunting and trapping. But new research is showing an estimated bobcat population of 1,400 in New Hampshire. All of New Hampshire’s neighboring states and provinces – Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Quebec – have bobcat seasons, although none limit their take using a permit system as proposed by New Hampshire. Hundreds of residents came to voice their opinions during the two scheduled public hearings. The fist hearing in Concord had 5:1 of opposers to supporters of the prosed hunting season.

The bobcat is one of the United States’ last remaining top carnivores. This position is critical because bobcats and other carnivores (now mostly extirpated) help keep our ecosystems balanced. In ecosystems that are short on carnivores, animals lower in the food chain rapidly increase in population size. This creates a domino affect of overeaten food resources, leading to poorer condition of individuals and higher rates of starvation. The end result is low birth rate and high mortality, causing animal and plant populations to crash.

An example of this effect was released in a 2009 article. Cumberland Island, Georgia, was devoid of large carnivores until bobcats were released as part of an ecosystem restoration project in 1989. The ecosystem was monitored between 1980 and 1998. The researchers found less deer in bobcat diets over time, indicating that bobcats had initially used deer as a primary prey species but ate them less often as deer populations lowered. Regeneration of plants significantly increased over this time period. This is further evidence that bobcats were keeping deer numbers low. The body weights of deer increased by 11 kilograms, on average, between 1989 and 1997, illustrating the importance of bobcats in keeping prey populations healthy.

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