2012-10-24 / Local & State

NY Wildlife Agency Adopts 5-year Plan For Bobcats

By Mary Esch
ASSOCIATED PRESS

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – The Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted its first five-year plan for bobcats after sifting through and responding to about 1,600 public comments, most of them opposing hunting and trapping of the elusive cats.

The document sets guidelines for monitoring the bobcat population and serves as a basis for hunting and trapping regulations. According to DEC, most of the comments received during the 30-day public comment period earlier this year offered little specific feedback on the plan but simply voiced opposition to hunting and trapping in general.

In response to the comments, DEC said hunting and trapping are allowed under the state's conservation law and it's up to the agency to ensure wildlife populations don't suffer from those activities.

“The bobcat population has increased over the past several decades throughout upstate New York,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a prepared statement released last week. “DEC's new bobcat management plan provides for the continued well-being of this unique species as well as opportunities for its use and enjoyment.”

DEC estimates the state's bobcat population at about 5,000. The cats are brown or grayish and about twice the size of a house cat, with a stubby tail, black tufted ears and black bars on its forelegs.

The plan lengthens the trapping season to match the hunting season in northern New York and opens several new areas in the Southern Tier to bobcat hunting and trapping. The changes won't take effect before fall 2013.

John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, an environmental group, said his organization is concerned that the longer trapping season could cause a rapid decline in the Adirondack bobcat population.

“Since there is little money for research on the numbers of this elusive animal in the Adirondack Park, this decline could go unnoticed until it is too late to stem the loss of the species,” Sheehan said.

The bobcat trapping season now runs from Oct. 25 to Dec. 25. The plan proposes to extend the season until Feb. 15, which would make it the same as the current hunting season.

The plan states that its goal is to maintain populations at or above current levels in eastern New York and allow for continued growth of populations in central and western New York.

“Trappers are as concerned as anyone with making sure the population is healthy and maintained,” said Dave Miller, legislative liaison for the New York State Trappers Association.

Miller said he's happy that the plan will open bobcat trapping in the Southern Tier, but he said bobcats aren't a major target for trappers in New York because their pelts are of a lower quality than those out West.

“You hear of $300 bobcats in the High Plains and Dakotas,” Miller said. “Here, they'd probably bring in $50.” New York is best known for highquality muskrat, fox, beaver and raccoon fur, Miller said.

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