April 25, 2014

Protection For East Mojave Bobcats Now In Place

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
San Bernardino Sentinel

Efforts to protect San Bernardino County’s bobcat population have moved ahead, including the enactment of legislation last year which bans the trapping of the majestic creatures or the harvesting of their pelts in and around Joshua Tree National Park and the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

At present, state officials are awaiting the outcome of a survey of the entire state of California’s bobcat numbers to determine whether the Fish and Game Commission should set further restrictions on bobcat trapping permits.

Farmers and keepers of livestock have for centuries engaged in an effort to suppress the bobcat population, offering bounties on the animals, which are opportunistic predators. The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a North American mammal of the cat family Felidae, which most often preys upon available rabbits and hares, small rodents and deer. If chickens are available, bobcats will voraciously feast upon them and will attack and kill foxes, minks, skunks,, dogs, goats and sheep. Bobcats have been credited with being responsible for roughly 11,000 sheep killings nationally every years, or 4.9% of all sheep predator deaths, though bobcat predation in this venue may be misattributed since bobcats have been known to scavenge on the remains of livestock kills by other animals.

Concern had been growing for years over human predation of bobcats. Bobcat pelts are commonly sold for $200 to $1,000 to collectors. Traders and collectors in China, Russia and Greece are particularly fond of bobcat pelts.

A common way of controlling the bobcat population consists of trapping. Trappers will monitor a bobcat’s habits and find areas they frequent. Since bobcat are territorial and mark their territory with its urine, trappers will use commercially available bobcat urine to bait a trap. They often cover the trap with sticks or brush and accentuate the baiting process with a piece of meat, mimicking the bobcat's practice of hiding away portions of larger animals it cannot finish in one sitting.

Popular nowadays are long-spring traps or coil traps, or a homesteader or rear door trap which is designed to capture the bobcat without injuring it or its pelt.

A watershed event occurred in January 2013 when Joshua Tree resident Tom O’Key found a bobcat trap on his property just outside Joshua Tree National Park. The trapper claimed he thought he had placed his device on public land.

As a result, Richard Bloom of Santa Monica sponsored Assembly Bill 1213. Which was passed into law and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2013. In signing the bill Brown called for a bobcat survey to determine the appropriateness of more inclusive bans.

The law went into effect on January 1, 2014, establishing a no-trapping zone around Joshua Tree National Park and within the Big Morongo Preserve, require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to amend its regulations to “prohibit the trapping of bobcats within, and adjacent to, the boundaries of a national or state park, monument or preserve, national wildlife refuge and other public or private conservation area identified by for protection.”

The bill also codified as illegal to trapping bobcats on private lands without the written consent of the property owner.