Sunday, June 21, 2009
By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A little bigger than the heftiest house cat, Pennsylvania's only confirmed wild feline, the bobcat, is expanding its range.
Once common across the state, the bobcat didn't experience purges that wiped out larger predators, but its range was greatly reduced. In 1970 it became a protected game species, its population regulated through limited hunting and trapping. Bobcats now thrive in the state's wildest places, eating small mammals including mice, chipmunks, rats and rabbits. They are probably harassed by free-ranging pets more than they attack them.
Easily considered a Pennsylvania wildlife success story, the bobcat population has spiked since the 1990s. During the 2000-2001 season, 58 bobcats were harvested by hunters and trappers. By the 2008-2009 season, the harvest had swelled to 487 -- over 100 more than the previous season. This year, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has continued expanding the bobcat harvest area and has increased the number of permits issued.
"All of the tools we use to monitor the state's bobcat population indicate increased abundance and continued geographic expansion outside of the established harvest area," said Matthew Lovallo, Game Commission Game Mammal Section supervisor in a written statement. "The addition of Wildlife Management Unit 4D in 2008-2009 increased the available harvest area by 14 percent. Similarly, the addition of WMU 4A and 4E for the 2009-2010 season will increase the allowable harvest area by 15 percent, and will better distribute harvest throughout the established bobcat range."
Last week, the Game Commission began accepting applications for bobcat permits from holders of resident and nonresident furtaker licenses, resident and nonresident junior furtaker or combination licenses, and resident senior furtaker or lifetime combination licenses. Applications must be submitted by Sept. 1. At a public drawing on Sept. 11, the Game Commission will issue 1,780 permits -- 337 more than last year -- for the 2009-2010 bobcat hunting and trappings seasons. The hunting season runs Oct. 24-Feb. 20, 2010; trapping season is set for Oct. 25-Feb. 21, 2010. Bobcat permit applicants with 6 preference points (5 previous points and 1 for this year's application) will automatically get a permit.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org