Home Environment OPINION: Ohio’s plan to trap bobcats is cruel and pointless

OPINION: Ohio’s plan to trap bobcats is cruel and pointless

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Bobcat. Photo via C Watts on Flickr.

Opinion writer Tim Zelina says the state’s plan essentially boils down to throwing a wrench in the bobcat populations growth, with little economic or scientific value to show for it.

Bobcats are more than just a mascot for Ohio University; they’re one of our state’s most unique, beautiful animals. For almost a century these creatures had been extinct from Ohio, driven out by trappers seeking their lucrative furs. Their return to Ohio has been slow, but it wasn’t until the late 2000s that bobcats began to return to areas in Southeast Ohio.

Just as the bobcat population seems to be stabilizing, the state of Ohio wants to start trapping them again. Unfortunately, their plan to do so is both cruel and economically inefficient.

According to the Ohio Department of Wildlife Services, bobcats were entirely driven out of Ohio by agricultural expansion and trapping practices by 1850. Bobcats were not seen again until the year 1946, when an Ohioan found one on his farm. Even after this rare sighting, the bobcat population in Ohio was negligible for half a century.

It wasn’t until the 1990s when the state of Ohio began monitoring the bobcat population. The project only has one member who splits her time between tracking bobcats and other functions, but the efforts have still yielded a collection of nearly 200 bobcat sightings in 2014.

200 sightings is a great number for environmentalists, as it shows bobcats have finally found a foothold in Ohio. Unfortunately, the bright side of this news was short lived, as the state of Ohio followed it up with a plan to start allowing the trapping of bobcats again.

To give the state some credit, the plan is extremely conservative. The plan outlines the creation only two zones, that comprise roughly one third of the state, where hunting will be allowed. In these two zones, 20 animals in Zone B (parts of Athens county) and 40 animals in Zone C (Eastern Ohio) would be trapped per year. Individual trappers would be limited to one bobcat pelt per season.

However, one has to wonder what the point of this plan is. Selling one bobcat pelt per year hardly provides sustainable income for anybody at all. This begs the question: is it worth killing nearly 60 of these animals per year just to allow a select few individuals to make a couple hundred bucks? The economic benefits are practically non-existent, but the potential for disrupting or slowing the return of bobcats is a real concern.

The state is further trying to justify its legalization of trapping by claiming that trapping bobcats will allow researchers to better track their population. It’s true that researchers have had great difficulty accurately estimating the Ohio bobcat population because only one woman is involved in the effort.

However, the solution to this gap in research is certainly not to use the number of killed bobcats to estimate their population. A little bit of extra funding from the state could go a long way in surveying the population and whereabouts of bobcats. This vital information, however, isn’t worth the cruelty of trapping.

The department’s plan essentially boils down to throwing a wrench in the bobcat populations growth, with little economic or scientific value to show for it. The bobcat is a symbol of pride for both Athens and Ohio. Because of this, we should all oppose this plan to expand trapping.

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