By MARTIN GRIFFITH
Associated Press Writer
Posted: 06/27/2009 01:37:09 PM PDT
Updated: 06/27/2009 03:38:45 PM PDT
RENO, Nev.-Nevada wildlife commissioners voted Saturday to shorten the state's bobcat trapping season amid concerns by wildlife advocates that the fur's popularity may be causing overtrapping of the species.
Commissioners unanimously accepted a Nevada Department of Wildlife staff recommendation to shorten the season from Dec. 1 to Feb. 19, a 32 percent reduction from the current four-month season.
The action, taken at a meeting in Lovelock, comes as the Humane Society of the United States and other groups are urging Western states to scale back trapping, particularly in Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming, which have the region's highest number of bobcats killed and no trapping quotas.
They fear high pelt prices may be adversely affecting bobcat numbers. Pelts from the West are most prized because the region's high elevations and cold temperatures make their spotted fur softer and deeper.
Kevin Lansford, furbear-predator specialist for the Nevada wildlife
department, said his state's shorter trapping season is necessary because fewer kittens were born in the last two years.
He said the kitten numbers are down because of drought and lack of prey, not because of overtrapping. The cats are so reclusive that Nevada and most states don't know just how many exist.
"We're sticking to biology," Lansford said. "We're not trying to predict markets here."
Don Molde of Reno, a former board member of the Defenders of Wildlife, said bobcats have taken a "hammering" in Nevada because of high pelt prices, and trapping quotas would be more effective in reducing the number of cats killed.
Trappers in Nevada bagged 10,260 bobcats from 2006 to 2009, according to the state wildlife department. That includes 4,911 in 2006-07, a peak that coincided with a spike in pelt prices driven by demand from Russia and China.
"I'm doubtful that anything of use is going to happen as a result of adjusting the season length," Molde said. "For the last 20 years, trapping season length has had absolutely nothing to do with the number of bobcats killed in Nevada."
Joel Blakeslee, president of the Nevada Trappers Association, said his group's board of directors unanimously endorsed the shorter season.
He said bobcat numbers have fluctuated over his 35-year-plus trapping career depending on the wetness of the season, not harvest levels.
"We have no problem with the shorter season," Blakeslee said. "It's based on the data and that's what we work with—science. When you have rabbits you have bobcats, and when you don't have rabbits you don't have bobcats."
Other wildlife advocates have called for a complete ban on bobcat trapping.
"Trapping is an incredibly barbaric practice that has no place in a civilized society," said Brian Vincent of Big Wildlife based in Williams, Ore.
Wildlife commissioners agreed to review the issue in a year instead of the usual two years.
As pelt prices have gone up, the number of bobcat skins exported by the U.S. nearly tripled in five years, to 49,700 in 2006.
While prices have come down in the last year or so, bobcat pelts still draw some of the highest prices among trapped furs, recently commanding as much as $550 for a single hide.
Federal officials say they are not concerned about bobcat numbers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are at least 1.4 million to 2.6 million bobcats nationwide.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org