Aug 28, 2019
By Erin Hauge & Katie Stennes
As native carnivores, bobcats (Lynx rufus) are an indicator species of ecosystem health. Yet they face growing challenges as their habitat disappears and human impacts increasingly affect their ability to survive.
Fortunately, lawmakers and a coalition of organizations are advancing bills through this session of the California State Legislature that, if passed, would protect bobcats from cruel and senseless killing.
AB 1254, spearheaded by Assembly Member Sydney Kamlager-Dove, would place a moratorium on pointless sport hunting of bobcats in California until January 1, 2025. The legislation includes exemptions to protect human safety, public property and livestock, and for scientific research. After five years, the Fish and Game Commission may reopen the hunting season under certain conditions, including the development of a bobcat management plan upon the legislature’s appropriation of funds. The plan would include an updated bobcat population estimate.
Bobcats are not hunted for food or their fur—they are killed for trophies. An estimated 331 bobcats were killed during the 2017-2018 hunting season. One 2019 bobcat hunting tag costs a paltry $3.24.
According to a 2019 poll, nearly 70 percent of Californians oppose bobcat trophy hunting—and the state has already prohibited bobcat trapping. Bobcats are a keystone species that play an important role in healthy ecosystems. Many organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, Project Coyote, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Animal Legal Defense Fund support this bill.
AB 1254 passed the Assembly and is scheduled to be heard in Senate Appropriations on August 30. If released, it could hit the Senate floor quickly. Residents can contact their senator and urge a ‘Yes’ vote on AB 1254.
AB 1788, carried by Assembly Member Richard Bloom, made it through the Assembly and several Senate committees but has been postponed until the 2020 legislative session. This bill would have banned the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs)—the most toxic rat poisons, with exemptions for agricultural activities and public health emergencies. Unfortunately, there were too many issues related to enforcement of these exemptions for the bill to proceed.
'Rodenticides move up the food chain as they indiscriminately sicken non-target species who eat poisoned rats. SGARs have detrimental impacts on the very species that help regulate rodent populations—including bobcats, coyotes, foxes, hawks, and owls. Rodenticides are counterproductive to long-term pest management solutions for rodent control because they destroy ecosystems.
Animals who ingest rodenticides may suffer a slow, agonizing death from internal bleeding and organ failure. These poisons are dangerous to children and pets who accidentally consume them. There are more humane, safer alternatives for rodent control.
AB 1788 was backed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote, Raptors Are The Solution, the Center for Biological Diversity and others. Look for this bill to be reintroduced next year.
Assembly Member Lorena Gonzales’ bill to outlaw all commercial and recreational fur trapping of fur-bearing and nongame animals, including coyotes and foxes, passed the California Legislature on August 12th and now moves to Governor Newsom’s desk. While bobcat trapping for recreation and personal profit was outlawed in 2015, AB 273 would further protect bobcats by reducing the chances that they will inadvertently step in a trap set for target species.
In 2017, a total of 133 trapping licenses were sold and 68 trappers reported killing 1,568 animals in California. None of those animals reported were bobcats, but unintended bycatch is a part of the trapping practice as traps indiscriminately capture non-target species.
A 2019 trapping license costs $124.63 and license sales do not cover the cost of the state trapping program—so we, the taxpayers, are subsidizing trapping activity. Traps cause senseless suffering for the animals who fall victim to them. Carnivores are critical to healthy ecosystems—concentrated removal of these animals is counterproductive to sound wildlife management and is wasteful and cruel.
We’re on the way to becoming the first state in the nation to ban fur trapping. The public can take action by calling and sending emails to the Governor in support of this bill.
Track the status of these bills by going to leginfo.legislature.ca.gov and signing up for updates under ‘My Subscriptions.’
Erin Hauge is a volunteer field representative for Project Coyote, an ecologist, certified naturalist and student of animal tracking who has been advocating for wildlife and habitat conservation since 2013.
Katie Stennes is the Programs & Communications Manager for Project Coyote, a national nonprofit organization based in Northern California that promotes compassionate conservation and peaceful coexistence with native carnivores.
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