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The trail may lead to money when it comes to the bobcat

Last winter during a walk along the perimeter of Tappan Lake, my sister and I spotted a track in the snow. It was quite large. We wanted to identify the owner, so using her hand for a size comparison, we took a photo. We thought it might have been a bobcat.
About a month after seeing the track, we saw a bobcat cross Route 250 a few miles west of Cadiz. It took only a few seconds for the feline to cross the road, but we got a great view of a majestic animal. It was a first-time sighting for everyone in the car.
It is always exhilarating for me to see an animal in the wild, especially one that is as elusive as a bobcat. The bobcat is native to Ohio and is in the same family, Felidae, as domestic cats. Before Ohio was settled, bobcats were common throughout the state. However, land encroachment and trapping extirpated most of them by 1850.
Bobcats usually have one litter per year and breed more often from December through May. Litters can range from one to six kittens. Bobcats establish large territories and are usually solitary creatures. They are carnivores and will eat insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals. Voles, moles and mice are taken regularly. They serve an important role as a top-tier predator in their ecosystem.
Between 1970 and 1997 there were 24 verified sightings of bobcats. In 1976 the species was declared “endangered.”
“In 1997 the ODNR started a monitoring project that relied on archery, turkey or squirrel hunters to report sightings.”
A verified sighting means individuals who have been road killed, incidentally trapped or photographed. Sightings have increased, and the bobcat was recently removed from the Ohio Endangered and Threatened Species List but remains protected in the state.
Currently the Ohio Division of Wildlife is proposing a bobcat trap-kill season to start this fall in Southeastern Ohio. The decision will be made in early May by the eight-member Wildlife Council after holding one public meeting for the entire state on April 23 in Columbus.
The proposal for 2018 would open the season on Nov. 10 and go till the end of January 2019. It would close when trappers hit a 20-cat quota in the southern region and a 40-cat limit in the eastern region. Officials of ODNR are claiming that trap-kill is a way to get biological data from the carcasses.
The decision to open the trapping season is being heavily supported by the Ohio State Trappers Association. A representative of that group, Keith Daniels, said in a recent news article in the Canton Repository, “We don’t want to see a resource go to waste just because someone thinks we shouldn't.”
I know a little bit about trapping. Several of my high school friends trapped raccoons in the 1970s. However, I wanted to take a closer look at the fur industry in the USA today, particularly that of bobcat fur. I found out some pretty “grisly” facets. This was the focus of a National Geographic Article in 2016 that followed Reveals’ investigative reporter Tom Knudson’s research into trapping.
Knudson found bobcat trapping can be quite lucrative. A high-quality bobcat fur coat can fetch upward of $150,000. It takes about 70 pelts to create a full-length coat. Since the animal rights movement has called attention to the cruelty of wearing fur, fur sales in the U.S. have dropped. However, these coats are still coveted in countries like China and Russia and also in high-end fur stores in Europe.
“We are talking over 50,000 animals a year killed to supply foreign markets.”
Even more disturbing is the way in which these animals are “harvested.” Over 80 countries have banned leg-hold traps, the ones with the steel-jaw structure that snaps tight on the victim’s extremity. However, they are still legal and used in the U.S. and Canada.
The article went on to explain the ordeal the animal goes through when caught. “Bones can be broken, tendons are torn and flesh is frayed.”
Because the trappers are not required to check traps regularly, the animal can die of dehydration or starvation. Sometimes the animal may even chew off their own limb to escape. Many trappers strangle or drown animals to preserve the fur, rather than killing them with a bullet.
A recent study published by Christopher Wolf and William Ripple points out the enormous benefits of restoring carnivores to an ecosystem. Certainly the reintroduction of the wolf to Yellowstone National Park serves as an example of the importance of these species.
I hardly think delaying the season until there is further research into the viability of the population would result in the “resource going to waste.”
As Keith Daniels said, “All the flora and fauna belong to everyone in the state.” One might ask, “So why are eight people making this decision rather than all of the citizens of the state?”
If you want to make a comment, you can write to the ODNR, Chief Mike Miller, 2045 Morse Road, Building G, Columbus, OH 43229-6693, by March 31 or call Gov. Kasich at 614-466-3555. The final vote is May 9 at the Wildlife District Office, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, at 6:30 p.m.

Published: March 23, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180329986