NH Fish & Game Approves Bobcat Season
After much deliberation, the NH Fish & Game Commission members voted 5-4 today in favor of a bobcat season. The season would be based on a lottery system and would provide 50 permits allowing the hunting/trapping/hounding of NH bobcats. This decision comes after two public hearings and an eight-day public comment period in which the majority of NH residents expressed their strong opposition.
At this year’s first public hearing on February 1st, 321 NH Residents signed in as being opposed to the proposal with only 46 signed in supporting it, making those supporting the proposal not even equal to the 50 licensed hunters that would receive permits based on the proposed lottery system.
A reported 5,000 or more comments were submitted during the public comment period, of which Commission member John W. McGonagle stated at the meeting today, “The majority of the people have expressed their concern about the bobcat season, they do not want to have one.”
So after reading about the strong opposition you have to wonder, was there actually any deliberation at all? The NH Fish & Game Commission members are made up of members that must currently have or previously have had a NH hunting license. You can’t help but think that perhaps there is a conflict of interest here.
When asking NH residents their opinion on today’s vote, resident James P. Glover, who is a board member of the New Hampshire Animal Rights League stated, “I’m pretty upset with it. I personally feel they didn’t listen to the public comment. They’re not listening to what the public wants.”
Prior to the vote Fish & Game Commission’s Vice Chair, David L. Patch expressed his belief that the data collected from bobcat carcasses turned into the Fish & Game during the season can be used to do important scientific research stating, “I look at this as much as a scientific survey as I do a season for 50 bobcats and I believe that is essential for the health of the species.”
However, many people believe that kind of science is outdated. Among them is NH resident Danielle Eriksen, who points out a scat program which is used by the Dept. of Conservation Biology at the University of Washington. “You can train dogs to search for bobcat scat”, she explained, “and using that scat you can actually do genetic analysis which will give you all kinds of info, such as what they are eating, the health of the animal, toxicological data … It is far better data because you can get a better distribution. While it is true that killing the animal allows them to get some data, it is no longer necessary, it is old science. Using this new science, we could be looking at a far greater number of the species.”
Fish & Game Commission member James W. Ryan, also in opposition of the season stated, “I do not agree to hunting the bobcat, I do not believe there is anything to gain in killing or hunting the bobcat ... If you’re not going to eat it, don’t shoot it”.
And it goes without saying that most of, if not all of the 50 licensed hunters/trappers destined to win the bobcat season lottery, do not intend on eating it for dinner. Several licensed hunters have confirmed that they themselves have yet to hear of a hunter harvesting bobcat as a food source.
This season clearly is a trophy and pelt hunt. A pelt hunt that would generate an estimated $5,000, which would leave the Fish & Game approximately $5,000 - $7,000 in the red, as Commission member John W. McGonagle also confirmed today, it would cost an estimated $10,000 - $12,000 to manage the bobcat season.
Surprisingly among the commission members who voted in opposition to the season, was Vincent Greco, who up until this point was a strong supporter of the proposal stated today, “I’ve had letters and calls from hunters and trappers who are opposed to the bobcat season. I got a call this morning from a hunter and a guide and a trapper who said, ‘please vote against the season even though I’m a hunter’, and that is just one of the reasons I am opposed to the season at this time.”
So perhaps some of the voices representing the majority of NH residents were heard after all. Clearly however, it was not enough for the opposition to have a victory today. The commission is made up of 11 members, 10 who vote, with the Chairman being the 11th vote only in the case of a tie. However, only 9 members voted today, as member Tom Hubert was not present for the vote. The final step is the proposal review by the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.
With all this being said three major questions now remain:
1. Where will the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules stand on this proposal?
2. Will the fact that only 9 commission members voting today have any impact?
3. What will it take for NH state rule makers to acknowledge the majority of the NH people?
Only time will tell. In the meantime, continue to check back as StraightTwist will be posting updates with more input from NH residents and land conservationists, information on what you can do to help prior to the Joint Legislative Committee meeting, as well as a look deeper into the bobcat proposal and the power of the NH Fish & Game.