The NH Fish and Game Department Commissioners voted 5 to 4 in favor of moving to the next phase of the NH Bobcat hunting & trapping season proposal. I am pleased with this outcome, but not for the obvious reasons one would initially think. For me, this goes much deeper than just having the legal authority to trap and harvest these creatures for their meat and fur. The state of New Hampshire is one step closer to incorporating its thriving bobcat population into the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. The bobcat in New Hampshire is one step closer to joining the coyote, fisher, moose, White Tailed deer, wild turkey, and beaver (amongst others) in one of the most successful wildlife conservation models on the face of our planet. Despite a widely ill-informed public, I feel the bobcat’s place in this role will ensure a stabilization of its population in the Granite State for generations to come. I may or may not seek to trap bobcats going forward on my winter trapline, but the fact that this beautiful and majestic animal is one step closer to being managed like the rest of our abundant and thriving wildlife is very promising.
I’m proud that the majority of the NH Fish and Game Commission stood firm in their pledge to conserve and manage our natural resources both logically, and soundly. Despite an immense amount of pressure from a wide array of emotional and extremist public banter, the department proved that it will not cater to emotion and sensationalism with regard to wildlife management.
A small fraction of the public organized a petition with the assistance of a marketing budget from a national organization that has been under extreme scrutiny for the past few years due to their dishonest fund raising campaigns and deceit.
If you are one of the many who felt this proposal was fueled by money and greed on the part of outdoorsmen and the department, I can assure you; you have tripped and fallen way too far down the well of misinformation. The modern populous has become accustomed to seeking out the next big subject to be offended by. There is an ever-growing sense of self-entitlement plaguing our general population, and the disrespectful, heated commentary I’ve witnessed as a result of this bobcat proposal is a clear indication that it has infected New Hampshire far worse than any opioid epidemic. We constantly look for the next subject to petition or cast blame upon, attempting to convey some sense of being duped or a perceived “wrong doing” on the part of someone or something else.
The fact that bobcats “haven’t hurt anyone yet” or “aren’t a problem” is not a scientific management argument - certainly a social one, however. Species health is based, in part, on data collection. Some of this data is attained through hunting and trapping. I will trap furbearers for fur garments and protein, I will do it humanely, I will do it ethically, I will do it under the strict current regulations set fourth by the state of New Hampshire and I will not apologize to anyone for doing so.
Despite the hunter and trapper’s “David versus Goliath” battle with these extremists, I was encouraged to see the support for this season grow exponentially from both sportsmen and the public in the weeks and months leading up to today’s Commission vote to move forward. It is truly encouraging that support for these “sensitive” topics is not completely swallowed alive by an internet-based mob rule.
I wish I could say something along the lines of “we won” or “score for the good-guys”, but realistically this isn’t the case. Everyone involved lost on this debate – and we lost well before any vote was handed down. We lost because so many of our brothers and sisters we share this fine state with have truly lost touch with our woods, our wildlife, and our individualism. When Facebook becomes a biology thesis and our Fish and Game Department is dismissed as “corrupt” and “greedy” in light of all the successful re-established wildlife species they’ve had a hand in saving, frankly, there is no winning side here. Its truly the death of “living wild” as we know it. If a full blown crusade to “ban” wildlife trapping devices while turning a blind eye to the countless motor vehicle collisions and housing development encroachments our wildlife endures isn’t a serious cry for help, then folks, I really don’t know what is. The only silver-lining to this whole ordeal is that the scab that has been picked as a result of this proposal will hopefully be an opportunity to re-educate much of New Hampshire’s general public on the advancement of modern trapping techniques and regulations, and the vital role fur trapping plays in our current ecosystems.
For those of you who are outraged, and completely against the proposed season, I do (to some degree) understand where your frustrations lie. You feel the state’s wildlife is being exploited. My only response would be that this is simply not the case, and the bulk of my frustrations with this proposal are that there are people out there in New Hampshire who truly don’t understand trapping and a self-reliance based mentality. Whether this is the fault of technology turning our brains to mush, or eccentrics whispering in your ears, I can’t really put my finger on it. My hope is that despite what I do, and why I do it, you would at least have the decency to recognize the fact that your state Fish & Game Department is not here to eradicate any species to cater to a chosen few. Despite our vast differences on how our wildlife should be managed, you and I are actually on the same side – the side for wildlife health and population growth. We simply have different roads we take to bring us to this conclusion.
I would like to thank The New Hampshire Trapper’s Association, The Sportsman’s Alliance, The NH Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, and select members of the NH Fish and Game Department for their support and attentiveness to the constant moving parts of the proposal process. I’d also like to thank the thousands of New Hampshire hunters, trappers and non-consumptive residents who remained outspoken about the benefits and support of the proposed season The fight is not over – the proposal now heads to the legislative process. Whatever the legislative outcome, the Fish And Game Commissioners who voted in favor of the season can hold their heads high knowing that they stood up to a myriad of senseless threats, fear-tactics, and irrational noise from those against modern wildlife conservation.