NH 'Cat Fight: Conservation vs Preservation

NH 'Cat Fight:

Conservation Versus Preservation. 

For those of you who haven’t been up to date on the current Wildlife Management events here in New Hampshire, the state Fish & Game Department announced their intention to propose a conservative (and very limited) bobcat hunting and trapping season. There has been a moratorium on harvesting the NH bobcat since the 1980’s, and after years of studies and data collection (much of which assisted by UNH and NH Trappers), the state has deemed the wildcat population fit to endure a very regulated hunt. Two public hearings were held in the state at the beginning of February, and it gave some residents the opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the proposed season. The first hearing, held in Concord, painted quite a picture, and I have to admit I was a little disturbed by the mentality of some of the residents I share a home with here in this great state.

The Anti-Trapping Crowd

I expected a certain degree of emotional debating from some of the crowd in attendance. The Humane Society of The United States, an organization which uses images of puppies in cages to raise funds to abolish hunting and trapping (while the puppies remain in cages), had claimed responsibility for a random phone survey that was cast out to NH residents days prior to the public hearing. This survey, which used theatrical and exaggerated rhetoric to paint trapping and hunting in a bad light, used out-dated information and banter that would make PETA blush. Their state director was in attendance with her cheerleading squad full and ready for an all-out assault on trapping in its most general form. The public commentary was quickly turned from an anti-bobcat season hearing, to an all-out bash-fest on modern trapping. I get these folks – I don’t agree with them in the least, but I get ‘em. They have their “black & white” view on everything; “tofu tastes better than animal flesh” and “fur is murder”; it’s an anti-human campaign against the “non-vegan establishment” – whatever. While these folks love to hear themselves talk, I think they ended up doing more harm than good for their cause by attacking hound hunting and trapping as a whole instead of sticking to the purpose of the night’s event - bobcats. These people won’t change, and I’m not interested in changing them. They’re predictable and honestly, not worth the debate. You do you, and I’ll do me.

The Conceited Hunter

Then of course there were the “ignorant outdoorsmen”. These guys “represented” rod & gun clubs across the state, and started their anti-hunting campaign by dictating how long they had been “hunting” in New Hampshire’s woods – as if their 30+ years of tripping over tree roots and squirting deer piss on their boots was somehow grounds for a Nobel Prize. These folks claimed to be against the bobcat season because hunters should always “eat what they kill” and anything else is supposedly some kind of perversion of the state’s wildlife. One of these guys even tried to justify that we should “not hunt the bobcat so that it can control the tick population”. Yes, I typed that correctly. Eat what you kill? If we are going to take on a “holier than thou” hunting mentality and only “kill things we’re going to eat”, then I know millions of SUV and housing development owners that won’t have to go grocery shopping until the next millennium. Besides, I personally think fur garments are an excellent use of a renewable resource. If you don’t like it, feel free to tuck yourself into your Real Tree bed sheets until deer season rolls around. I really don’t think anyone is going to take conservation management advice from someone who “shot a pheasant once”. On that subject, I know there’s plenty of bobcat recipes floating around the web – who says I wouldn’t give it a shot? As a fur trapper, I have the highest regard and respect for the land and it’s wildlife. The argument that a bobcat season only supports a “trophy hunt” is not only a reckless and ignorant statement, but just furthers my point that people are becoming very out-of-touch with the natural world around them. You folks are no better than the “bored housewives club” I mentioned above.

The “Woods-Snobs”

The true showstopper of the night, however, was by far the supposed “Conservationists”. Conservation organizations from across the state attended the hearing not only to announce their disapproval of the proposed season, but to threaten New Hampshire’s residents by taking the land they have been entrusted with managing and closing it off to hunting completely. The Harris Center, Nature Conservancy, Piscataquog Land Conservancy, Audubon Society, and multiple individual town boards threatened to “post their land” against all hunting if they “didn’t get their way”. As one board member was quoted as saying, “an attempt to pit hunters against the NH Fish & Game Department”. Your personal opinion or lack of education on a certain subject does not give you the right to “punish” the general public, although you may think you’re special because you built a foot-bridge in a swamp, it doesn’t trump biology and statistical data. I would go as far to say that many of the landowners who entrusted their acreage to these deceitful organizations would be rolling over in their graves if they knew how this land was now being managed in the modern day. It’s a bobcat season today, what is it tomorrow folks? Are we going to close out conservation land to the public because they didn’t get that “special grant” they demanded? Perhaps we reach a point where deer hunting is no longer perceived as “okay” in a board member’s eyes; are we going to “shut down” conservation land to everyone then too? When these organizations are blatantly holding the land “hostage” because of a vendetta, how far will the public allow it to continue before we say “enough is enough”, and the donations and support starts to dwindle for their next “walking path”.

I’m sorry, but not everyone in New Hampshire uses conservation land for painting and jogging. If our conservation land is going to start being run like a members only club, perhaps its time the people reassess their role in our state’s managed lands. The truth is, prior to all this bobcat nonsense, myself as well as hundreds of other NH residents held these organizations in high regard not only for their commitment to the land, but for their unbiased approach in doing so. Apparently things have changed, and while I think they are banking on their “non-consumptive” demographic to continue donating to them, I think many of these organizations are going to find that their stance on this subject might have been slightly premature. I’ll also add that most trappers stand to lose nothing by these organizations posting their land – trappers require written landowner permission permits to trap wild species, and we’ve been getting the “short end of that stick” on conservation land for many years now.

Its important to remember that conservation is not preservation. If you want to be a preservation organization, market yourself as such. Conservation from an ethics standpoint is defined as “Conservation of biodiversity, environment, and natural resources, including protection and management.” The management of our natural resources has been successful through the North American Model of Wildlife Management. Guarding natural resources from being touched by anyone or anything is a far cry from managing that resource, while opening the door for others to enjoy. The proposed bobcat season falls under these management guidelines; no one is here to eradicate the bobcat, and anything suggesting otherwise is pure paranoia.

The NH Fish & Game

On the subject of paranoia, let’s talk about the folks that stirred this steaming shit-pot to begin with. I (currently) hold the Fish & Game Department in the highest regard. They are tasked with managing the state’s wildlife, and have to do this while also trying to appease an ever-disgruntled general public. Of course, you can’t please everyone, and you’re always going to have those foolish chuckleheads who have nothing better to do than speak out against an “establishment” of any kind. These folks were also present at the hearing in Concord, telling tales of a “greedy”, “money-hungry” government catering to a “trapping lobby” (all 500 of us!), and the third-party UNH was somehow in on it! The way some of these folks were talking, you would have thought Richard Nixon and Donald Trump were in cahoots to doctor the study data for global fur-bearer domination. No matter what the department decides to do in regards to the bobcat season proposal, these people will never be happy, and they will find another bone to gnaw on long after the bobcat-dust has settled. However, we live in a free America, and so we waive our flags high and let these folks babble stupid for three whole minutes each in a packed state house during a bobcat public comment hearing. I forgot my tin-foil hat at home.

I have to criticize the Fish & Game department in one area though. Both sides have been told that it was scientific and biological data that fueled the bobcat season proposal. We (the supporters) know that part of the bobcat season proposal includes the surrendering of harvested ‘cat carcasses to the state for biological studies, studies that could yield endless amounts of scientific data regarding the continued health and stability of the population. The data potential to be collected from a regulated bobcat hunt could surpass road-killed specimens, and give the state biologists information that other surrounding states have had access to for years now (since all surrounding states currently allow bobcat hunting and trapping). However, the nagging question remains as to why the state Fish and Game Department, and their biologists, have not simply come out with this justification.

Instead, they seem to hide in the shadows without an opinion on the season, waiting for the hunters and trappers to duke it out with the animal liberation extremists in the public arena. The department’s credibility has been ripped apart by national extremist organizations, the misinformed, the uneducated, and the media; and yet they simply sit back without comment to allow for a frenzied mob-rule. Are they afraid of offending someone? Frankly, I think that ship has sailed. For an organization that seems to support general hunting and fishing without prejudice, they seem to be awful quiet on the many benefits fur-trapping plays in modern biology, as well as the benefits of the bobcat season THEY have proposed. Personally, I think the time to save self-image and public neutrality is far gone, and it’s high time the department step up and defend what they have been entrusted to manage. They would only be confirming what so many of their supporters have been screaming for the past year and a half; there is absolutely nothing wrong with using what the land gives you, as long as it is closely monitored and regulated.

Where do we go from here?

Not all was lost that night in Concord, NH. Although those in opposition of the season outnumbered NH outdoorsmen, I hear the second public hearing in northern Lancaster, NH was more of a level playing field. While many with ulterior motives attended this hearing to take down the NH trapper, I feel proud and comforted knowing there were also many who spoke in favor of the proposed season; a sign that science, logic, and true outdoorsmen/women aren’t completely dead yet. This will likely be my last real report on the proposed bobcat season, as I think what needs to be said, has been said. I’ve voiced my opinion in several past articles on this blog, and I think it’s high time to move on to more interesting subject matter.

If I could leave anything for those reading this who are against the proposed season, I think the only remark I could make is despite your stance or perception, I’m not here to cull an entire species. I have the highest respect and regard for New Hampshire’s wildlife and I only hope to see its abundance continue to grow. Despite extremely different views, I think somewhere deep in the thick of this messy debate, we’re somewhat on the same side – the side for wildlife sustainability. I think we both simply take different roads to get there.

You can still submit written comments on the proposed season until February 10th. Put “Bobcat Season” in the subject line and send your opinion to comments@wildlife.nh.gov. The commission will have a final vote whether to move forward with a season on February 17th 2016 at 1:00PM at NH F&G Headquarters in Concord. I encourage those of you who can attend to do so, to show support for our Nation’s wildlife management practices.

I’d like to thank the New Hampshire Fish and Game, the biologists, and the Commissioners for their consideration of the proposed bobcat season. A special “thank you” to the US Sportsmen’s Alliance for their continued support of NH hunters and trappers. I’d also like to thank the New Hampshire Trapper’s Association, and the countless hunting organizations and individual supporters who have fought so hard to shine a light on the truth about this debate. Good luck on the ‘line trappers.