The Current State of New Hampshire's Wildcat

The 2015-16 trapping season is quickly approaching here in New Hampshire, and while I should be focused mainly on gearing up articles for season preparation, I am instead preoccupied with the ensuing battle for NH Sportsmen in regards to the reopening of a Bobcat hunting/trapping season. There has been some great debate back in fourth from supporters and opponents in regards to the validity and/or need for a ‘cat season here in the Granite State. The opposition (mainly a local “Animal Rights” group, and their national syndicate, the Humane Society of the US) has played their hand well; distorting information and public opinion. As I have stated publically numerous times, and on this site I am only in support of a NH bobcat season if the science, rationale, and state biologists are in favor of it. Recently, it has been confirmed that all of these aspects have been proven true and clearly presented. So what exactly is the hold up? Why have we not moved into the rulemaking and season limits portion of this proposal? The answer lies in a few key factors.

 A bobcat trapped and released from a foothold trap unharmed ( image courtesy of another NH trapper )

A bobcat trapped and released from a foothold trap unharmed (image courtesy of another NH trapper)

Misinformation

I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the New Hampshire public (to some degree) recognizes the need for trappers and trapping seasons. When a beaver family floods out your road or driveway, or that rabid fox takes a bite of a youngster at an evening town ballgame, it is not just the Fish and Game Department that usually sees the issue through; but rather a local licensed trapper. Many of the furbearing critters targeted by trappers are not hunted, or otherwise primarily focused on (with exception to state biologist studies). As a result, trapping plays an integral role in species health and monitoring through annual trapper’s reports. Contrary to how some may think, biologists and those entrusted with the preservation of these creatures are not out there with binoculars, microscopes and tweezers constantly collecting data on raccoons or opossums daily. They are not taking a monthly headcount of every coyote, beaver, or mink that crosses the forest. They rely a great deal on reports turned in from trappers during annual trapping seasons, and during out of season control/management services. The majority of trappers, in turn, have a deep seeded passion for species sustainability. Without furbearers, none of us would be able to carry on the trade of trapping, and hold this great responsibility close to our souls. The information fur trappers supply to state and national biologists is invaluable, and helps immensely with population attainment – information that allows for furbearers and other creatures to be seen and enjoyed by all. The trapper sees things that the typical hiker or “backyard animal observer” simply does not see – this my friends, is an undeniable fact; and these observations are key to ensuring a healthy population of a given species for generations to come. In turn, a proposed bobcat season isn’t fueled primarily by money for the state, or “profit” for trappers, but rather an instrumental tool of data collection to see the bobcat continue to thrive here in New Hampshire. Keep in mind – all surrounding states currently implement bobcat hunting/trapping seasons, and their bobcat populations thrive.

Emotional Rationale

There is no “gray” area with anti-hunting organizations. You are either “for animals” or “against them”. It’s very black and white, and it’s a rationale that not only harms potentially fruitful species data collection, but also interferes with or frowns upon the ability to wear leather belts, and eat a cheeseburger. It’s the same rationale that removes the facts and realities of “tooth, fang and claw” nature, and waters it down into a cheery, animated fallacy. This mentality has played a forefront focus on the NH bobcat debate. Bottom line, animal rights is a money game; and there’s a lot of money to be made through donations to support a perceived cause. Problem being, there’s no sense of middle ground on what is potentially best for a species or wildlife population with these groups; the rationale is simply to “love animals to death”. Which is exactly why many rationally thinking animal lovers have side-stepped these groups, and come to the determination that there is, in fact, middle ground when it comes to wildlife preservation and conservation. To get the gist of what I’m taking about, I encourage you to visit ConserveWildlife.org to read more about how wildlife conservation can be successful with the roles of hunting, trapping and fishing. When real science and logic shines through, these groups look to their national and international parent companies and followers to throw more money and legislative backers at their crusade. Political pressure having an influence on how to manage wildlife populations is both reckless, and downright disgusting. Period. Furthermore, trappers and hunters are not out to take away all of the state’s wildlife so that nobody can “view” it – I promise. For the reasons stated above, trappers and hunters alike wish to see a bobcat population thrive, which was why a hiatus on bobcat harvest was supported decades ago.

Biased Media Outlets

No, I’m not naive. I’m well aware that all news media is biased in one-way or another. There’s a big difference between news, and a tabloid spread, and I think there are some big names in New Hampshire’s media world that have lost a large portion of credibility in the eyes of the general public. Personal opinions are given their own section in a news column; it’s called an editorial – kind of like what you’re reading right now. Unfortunately, the interns in charge of posting many of the articles pertaining to the recent bobcat season proposal forgot to caption “editorial” at the top of their “articles” before hitting the “live tweet” button. I’ve seen just about everything recently in local media stories pertaining to trapping; statements like “trappers lie to landowners about how vicious Fisher can be, just so they can kill them”, all the way to “foothold traps are illegal and banned in NH”. Tisk tisk, y’all know who you are, Let’s just say there’s two sides to every story; “trust but verify” my friends.

This Week

We shall see what next week brings. Despite the noise generated by out-of-state interest and trumped up petitions, The Fish and Game Commission will hold a meeting on Wednesday October 14th at their headquarters in Concord, NH. There will be groups protesting; so I encourage all sportsmen (whether in support of trapping or not) to attend and speak your piece. Let these groups know that they do not speak for the majority of New Hampshire. My only hope is that the logic of sound science and conservation prevail in the decision making process; rather than the noise of politics and emotion.