kill all the bobcats you want, no limit in Massachusetts USA
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
Northampton, Massachusetts USA
Wednesday 18 November 2009
Plan to remove quota
on bobcat hunt draws fire
NORTHAMPTON -- State wildlife officials ran into a furor of criticism at a public information session Tuesday night from residents worried about a proposed change to the regulations governing bobcat hunting in Massachusetts.
The main issue before the gathering was the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife's proposal to remove the quota on the number of bobcats killed each hunting season. Nearly 30 people packed into the City Council chambers in Northampton, and everyone who spoke opposed the proposal.
Under the current law, bobcat hunting season is called to a close once 50 bobcats have been killed in the eight wildlife management zones in western and central Massachusetts where bobcat hunting is permitted.
Yet that quota is unnecessary, state wildlife biologist Laura Hadjuk said Tuesday evening, because the average number of bobcats killed over the past 30 hunting seasons is 24.
"The quota is unnecessary because it did not limit harvest during the years it was in place. The quota was only met once in the 32 years it was in place," Hadjuk said, speaking before the gathering. "A quota is logistically impractical because it creates confusion among hunters who do not know when the quota has been reached and contributes to unnecessary administrative overhead and communication burdens."
That was a statement that did not go down well with those in attendance.
Kurt Heidinger of Westhampton pressed Hadjuk on why removing the quota was necessary if the quota was never met. He also asked if the new regulations would have an impact on the number of bobcats killed each hunting season.
Hadjuk said it would not.
"We are simply removing a cap that never capped the harvest," Hadjuk said in response to Heidinger.
Helen Rayshick of Barre disputed the notion that removing the quota would not impact the number of bobcats killed. She cited the number of bobcats killed last year, 52, and noted that the state had no means of determining how many would be killed next year.
"You say you don't want to increase the number of animals killed, yet last year you exceeded the quota limit," Rayshick said. Her fears were echoed by others later in the meeting when Hadjuk noted that the number of coyotes killed each hunting season had doubled once coyote hunting season was expanded.
Hadjuk said it was not the department's goal to reduce the bobcat population.
"A stable population or increased population is what we are interested in," Hadjuk said. She noted that while the department does receive complaints about bobcats killing livestock, those complaints are few and far between.
Hadjuk noted that bobcat hunting season is currently 2½ months, from Dec. 20 to March 8, while trapping season covers the month of November. In the first half of the 20th century, bobcats were hunted year-round for a bounty. Since that time, hunting seasons have grown increasingly short, and are now the shortest they have ever been, Hadjuk said, noting that similar measures like regulating hunting hours and prohibiting the use of dogs in tracking the animals are more effective means of preventing large-scale killing.
Bob Zimmerman, a wildlife biologist from UMass, asked Hadjuk what the department's management goals were with respect to bobcats.
Hadjuk said the department was trying to accommodate different values in the community. Some people like to hunt bobcats, some like to see them in the wild - and the department tries to maintain bobcat numbers at a level that supports both, Hadjuk said.
That statement prompted Zimmerman to ask who had supported the proposed rule change. Hadjuk responded that hunters in Berkshire County had been supportive of the new proposal.
Tom O'Shea, assistant director of wildlife research, said the department had received 60 letters opposing the new measure and six letters in support.
Jackie Compton of Williamsburg asked if those who did not support the hunting of bobcats would be heard by the department. Officials responded together, saying that each letter was read and considered and that the values of all segments of the population were considered in the decision-making process.
O'Shea noted that the laws governing bobcat hunting are regulated by the department and therefore could be changed by a vote of the Fisheries and Wildlife board. He said it is possible that the board will vote on the rule change at its next meeting on Sunday.
Ben Storrow can be reached at email@example.com.
Wed, 11/18/2009 - 18:56 — LogiWrkr
Hunting and guns are not bad
I would like to see this decisions made based on facts and data. I come from a family of hunters yet have no interest my self, I think the animals are too cute. I don't think any less of those who hunt, in some cases it is necessary. Our ancestors were only able to hunt for game to eat. Fortunately we can now get our sustenance by other means, otherwise I personaly might starve. But that doesn't stop the population of animals that were hunted at one time from growing. I'm getting the impression if your not of the popular opinion, your opinion does not matter. Come on people, lets respect each other differences. I will hope this decision is well thought out made for the right reasons.
Wed, 11/18/2009 - 16:51 — sammysue14
At the meeting, the DFW estimated a present statewide bobcat population of 1000-1200. When asked what the population was around 1970, the DFW had no data to refer to. In fact, except for the above figures calculated this year to buttress the rationale for the regulation change, the DFW has no population data whatsoever.
Without such data, any claim made that removing the quotas will either sustain or increase populations is not scientific.
This is an important point, b/c the DFW director said the DFW manages wildlife based on 2 values: cultural and ecological. The director said there was no ecological value to be found in the killing of bobcats, b/c they are not a "nuisance" or 'invasive" species, and b/c they play a key role in maintaining healthy biomes. There is a cultural value, however, in killing bobcats, b/c certain hunters enjoy the challenge and keep the skins.
So, what was so interesting about this meeting was that the "science" doesn't hold up—and won't until more data is collected and analyzed. The DFW found itself representing the "cultural values" of a minority of hunters against a majority of non-hunters, and arguing that the quota needs to be abolished because it is too much work for hunters to call DFW to see if the 50-kill quota has been reached.
What was disturbing to me was, that, lacking the science to back up its assurances, the DFW made the contradictory argument that the quota is unnecessary b/c it has never been exceeded—except for last year. The only time in 30 yrs the 50-kill quota was exceeded was last year: 52. This indicates that kills will increase if the quota is lifted. Given there is no historical data on population, the DPW cannot look to facts to back up its assurance that the population will be stable or increase.
I am not anti-hunting, but until the DFW has the science, the DFW Trustees cannot claim their decision is based on empirical facts, or "ecological values." If their decision is to remove the 50-kill quota, it will be based on "cultural values."
If 10% of residents want to hunt bobcats, and 90% don't (a figure that was raised w/out controversy at the meeting), a decision to remove the quotas will not be representative of the majority. It will be representative of the board of trustees "cultural values."
We should keep the quotas until the DFW has the science.
Wed, 11/18/2009 - 17:18 — denim
Speaking of science
You seem to be making too much stew from one oyster. You have a data point. You can't make a line or a curve from that. I can't argue with the rest of what you said.
Wed, 11/18/2009 - 16:09 — denim
It'd be helpful to know what reasons people had for opposing the hunt. If it's a matter of "hunting bad, hunting bad", or "bobcats cute! cute little bobcats", those positions can be safely ignored. If it's more like "we need more bobcats for killing certain kinds of critter", that's another story. In other words, a real reason is one thing, while knee-jerk "guns bad"/"hunting bad"/"animals cute" is completely ignorable. To those people, I say, "go play with your dollies".
It'd be nice if this state would be less touchy-feely and less Big Brother, and better neighbors in the sense of "good neighbors know when to leave people alone/mind their own business".
Wed, 11/18/2009 - 15:02 — jplaza
Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife's proposal
It would be helpful to have the data on the estimated bobcat population, to place the quota (50) figure in greater context. From the average harvest referenced as "24", it appears the population is relatively small.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
Northampton, Massachusetts USA
Wednesday 25 November 2009
State lifts quota
on bobcat kills
Notes other protections for animals
The Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board voted Tuesday to lift the quota on the number of bobcats killed each year during the hunting season.
The state Fisheries and Wildlife Board voted unanimously Tuesday to remove a limit on the number of bobcats killed each hunting season, a decision that drew fire from animal rights activists, who say the change was based on anecdotal evidence and pressure from the hunting lobby.
In years past, the 2½-month hunting and one-month trapping seasons came to a close when 50 bobcats were killed. The regulation change removes that limit, allowing bobcat hunting to continue for the duration of the two seasons.
The measure also removes the former requirement that hunters check a killed bobcat at an official weigh station within four days of making the kill. Now, hunters must check the killed animal within four days of the close of the hunting season.
The hunting season goes from Dec. 20 to the following March 8. The trapping season goes from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30.
Joseph Larson, a member of the board, said members had concluded that the quota had little impact on the bobcat population in Massachusetts since it has only been reached once in its 32 years in existence. The quota was surpassed for the first time last year when 52 bobcats were killed.
"We were persuaded that the quota is not a factor for the bobcat population," Larson said in a phone interview Tuesday. The state Legislature's decision to remove the animal from a "varmint list," lifting of the bounty placed on the species, the closure of parts of the state to bobcat hunting and a shortened hunting season are a better means of managing the bobcat population, Larson said.
Helen Rayshick, executive director of the Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition, disputed Larson's take on the quota.
"We don't feel there is enough scientific data behind their decision," Rayshick said. "Some of their reasons include anecdotal information, like the number of bobcats seen by the public and the fact that it is too much work to take the time to count the number of bobcats killed each hunting season. Until the number of bobcats is known, we don't feel it is prudent to lift the quota."
Laura Hajduk, a state wildlife biologist, said Tuesday by phone that the population estimate is compiled using a density analysis, home-range estimates and the amount of available habitat, among other factors. She said population indices such as the number of bobcats killed by hunters, the age and sex range of those animals, the number of sightings and road kills are used to monitor their population.
Speaking about the quota at a public information session in Northampton last week, Hajduk said, "The number 50 really is an arbitrary number relative to the population."
She noted that the estimated bobcat population in Massachusetts is 1,200 to 1,300. "Twenty percent of the estimated population, or 120 bobcats, would have to be taken in order to negatively affect the population."
Rayshick also took issue with that logic Tuesday, saying, "First, we don't know what the population is, so we don't know what 20 percent of the population is."
She noted that the bobcat was not considered a nuisance, a pest or an overpopulated species and said she felt that the decision to change the regulation was meant to appease the hunting lobby.
"I believe the (lobbyists) put a huge amount of pressure on the division," Rayshick said.
Larson disputed that charge, noting that the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the U.S. Humane Society had not lodged any complaints concerning the proposal.
"I think they understand that what we are doing does not fundamentally impact the bobcat population," Larson said.
He said the lack of opposition from those groups made it hard to agree with the claim that only a small segment of residents was in favor of the change.
Wed, 11/25/2009 - 18:02 — etr
Seems like some odd logic with a few doses of conjecture.
Two organizations don't register complaints, so that equates with the majority agreeing with the change? That's a stretch.
You would also think that reaching the kill quota for the first time last year would be a red flag for the Board--suggesting that higher numbers of kills are now possible--therefore indicating a need for caution when considering changes at the moment.
I don't know whether the Board was too bureaucratically cumbersome to react to this new data, or they were reacting to it--as a great new opportunity for hunters. Either way, it smells fishy to me. Then again, it may simply come down to budgetary problems, which is a really unfortunate way to reach wildlife management decisions.
Wed, 11/25/2009 - 13:27 — richmar
This is very sad. What is
This is very sad. What is our state coming to?