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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One Comment

  1. Heather Cantino

    March 28, 2018 at 10:34 PM

    Thanks for your article. To argue one of your points though, the scientists I’ve talked to do NOT consider the plan “extremely conservative” or even a little conservative because 1) it allows an unlimited number of traps to be set and it will be very difficult for the Division to curtail the program to actually limit the killing to 60 animals (which requires effective and timely communication from trappers to DOW to trappers with traps still set and those trappers actually retrieving their set traps) and 2) scientists don’t know what the population levels are in the two targeted regions but think that, in one of those regions, the population is not self-sustaining or reproducing well, so that the number 60 is actually arbitrary and may affect viability of both the less viable population and the source population that provides cats for both regions, 3) the regions targeted have most of the state’s bobcats, so it’s irrelevant whether the trapping is only in 2 regions — there are no viable reproducing populations anywhere in the state except in one of the regions targeted, and 4) with road kill and “incidental trapping” of cats killed inadvertently in traps for coyotes or other animals being almost 100 bobcats in 2017, and with the population perhaps being under 500 STATEWIDE, that’s already 20% mortality caused by humans without any trapping, but the literature that DOW cites on population viability in the Management Plan you link to (Knick 1990) states that mortality above 20% may compromise viability — so any additional trapping could have significant impacts on population viability, which would mean goodbye bobcats. That’s not a conservative plan but one with no scientific basis and no justification, period.


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