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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Saving California’s Bobcats

An axiom of wildlife management is that wild animals are for the benefit of the entire public, not for private commercial profit. But there are some forms of commercialization of wildlife that still exist today, and the market is driving the unsustainable killing of creatures with no limits. Bobcats are under such a threat in California, which currently allows the unlimited trapping of bobcats for commercial purposes.

bobcat
Christine Jensen/The HSUS
A bobcat recovering at The Fund for Animals
Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif.

Commercial trapping efforts can be concentrated just outside the borders of national parks and other conservation areas and wildlife corridors. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that property owners found traps on their private lands on the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park. Numerous bobcats that had long been observed, photographed and appreciated by residents and tourists within and along the boundaries of the park abruptly disappeared during the trapping season.

Rising demand for bobcat pelts for use in luxury clothing in China and other foreign markets is now driving the bobcat trapping half a world away—as pelt prices climb, so does the level of killing. The price of bobcat pelts has reportedly increased nearly ten-fold in just a few years, from $78 per pelt in 2009, to as much as $700 per pelt this year. In the 2011-2012 trapping season, the number of trappers reporting bobcat harvest more than doubled over the previous season, while the number of harvested bobcats rose by more than 50 percent. In the region that includes Joshua Tree National Park, bobcat trapping has increased more than 800 percent over the past two years.

State Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has introduced legislation to curb the commercial killing and place reasonable restrictions on bobcat trapping. A.B. 1213 would  address the problem of commercial fur trappers targeting the wildlife near state and national parks; stop commercial trappers from catching and killing bobcats on private property without the consent of the property owner; and direct the Fish & Game Commission to set trapping license fees at the level necessary to recover state government costs associated with bobcat trapping.

The bill has passed two committees and will go to the Assembly floor this week. If you live in California, please contact your Assemblymember today, and urge him or her to support A.B. 1213 and help protect the state’s bobcats from commercial killing for luxury pelts.

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