New Hampshire has always been home to a very diverse ecosystem. From the White Mountains and the North Country, down to the Lakes Region, Monadnock and Merrimack valleys, the state holds quite a sustainable terrain for birds, fish, reptiles and furbearers. New Hampshire holds healthy populations of fisher, raccoon, coyote, weasel, mink, beaver, otter, and of course bobcats. The bobcat has been the subject of numerous studies since government bounties through hunting and trapping almost wiped out the population from the 1800's through the 1960's. Sensible wildlife management and conservation has seen the bobcat population soar to more-than-healthy numbers throughout the last decade.
These days, if you spend any amount of time in the woods, it’s virtually impossible to not run into some sign from bobcats; whether through kills, scat, tracks or visual sightings - it’s no doubt that the once perceived "spirit of the woods" (given the name due to the cat's ability to move through the woods unnoticed) has reached a healthy status here in the Granite State.
It has come to a point where the state biologists and agency entrusted with the wildcat's health and sustainability can now begin to decide where a population should begin to be managed. Through scientific research and data collection, assisted in part by the University of New Hampshire, state biologists have been able to determine approximate numbers, diet, carrying capacity and overall population health.
It wasn’t long before state animal rights groups caught wind of today’s proposed discussion to begin talks of a limited bobcat hunting and trapping season. As I have previously stated, I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion; however, I have a hard time remaining silent while these groups promote stereotypes and pure fallacy to the general public about trapping practices and trapper’s intentions with a newly introduced bobcat season. Talk to any biologist who knows anything about furbearer biology, and they will tell you that hunting and trapping plays an integral role in understanding an animal’s biology. Trappers especially play an important part as the “foot soldiers” for state biologists when general information or samples are needed regarding a particular species, largely in part due to the amount of time trappers spend in the deep woods.
For example, state licensed trappers stepped up to the plate in assisting UNH with trapping live bobcats for the very studies used to understand their population health. This assistance was given out of support to better understand the bobcat as a species and shows the dedication state trappers have for conservation – trappers assisted with these studies whether the results allowed for a harvest season or not.
Last I checked, I don’t recall any assistance from these “animal rights” and “anti-trapping” groups for these studies. The strongest argument I have heard from those against a bobcat harvest season has been that bobcats aren’t regularly seen. To suggest that bobcats are a threatened species simply because they aren’t regularly seen in suburbia is downright lunacy. On the contrary, being in the Wildlife Control business I have seen a drastic influx in livestock predation from bobcats in recent years – primarily in regards to chickens. Many are quick to point out that species like the bobcat were over-trapped and over-harvested decades ago, although rarely is it noted that trappers and hunters have learned from mistakes made decades ago, and the days of trapping a species to extinction have now been replaced with sound conservation models and season limits. Regulated trapping and hunting is an integral part of species health and understanding – this is fact, not rhetoric.
These anti-trapping organizations only seem to come out of the woodwork once the hard work has already been done; once scientific data has been collected, processed, and the organizations entrusted with protecting these species decide the numbers have exceeded stable levels. Once you begin to break down the arguments of both sides, it’s clear to see who the real animal advocates are here – those of us engaging in the practice of harvesting the renewable resources this great state has to offer. I have no desire to rid the state of its bobcat population, nor do I “only make profit” off of their skins, as these groups would try to claim. I have chosen to live off of the land and all of the components within it, and this includes eating meat. I do not judge someone based on their lifestyle; and if you choose to not partake in the eating of meat or naturally insulating clothing like fur, all the more power to you. Likewise, I shouldn’t have to be judged for my choice to eat meat or clothe myself from what the land I live on produces for me. These concepts are a basic predator/prey mentality – I am not supposed to partake in this natural balance because I’m human? That being said, in support of the state’s consideration, I have a great bobcat meat recipe I’m willing to share with those interested. On a final note, as a sensible conservationist, I support New Hampshire Fish and Game’s decision regardless of whether a season is opened or not.