Bobcat Protection Act Passes California State Assembly
The bill, which originally would have banned all commercial trapping of bobcats within the state, now requires the Fish and Game Commission to amend its regulations to prohibit trapping bobcats "within, and adjacent to, the boundaries of a national or state park, monument or preserve, national wildlife refuge, and any other public or private conservation area identified by the commission for protection." The act also prohibits the export "any bobcat or part of any bobcat taken in the area surrounding Joshua Tree National Park," a mystifying provision that does not seem to impose the same limitations on other areas covered by the act.
In addition, the bill "would prohibit the trapping of any bobcat, or attempt to do so, on any private land not belonging to the trapper without the express written consent of the owner of that property."
Another provision requires the commission to set trapping license fees for the 2014-15 season, and all subsequent seasons in which bobcat trapping is allowed, "at the level necessary to fully recover all reasonable administrative and implementation costs of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the commission associated with the trapping of bobcats in the state."
The Bobcat Protection Act specifically outlines where trapping is banned in the vicinity of Joshua Tree National Park:
"Beginning January 1, 2014, it shall be unlawful to trap any bobcat, or attempt to do so, or to sell or export any bobcat
or part of any bobcat taken in the area surrounding Joshua Tree
National Park, defined as follows: East and South of State Highway 62 from the intersection of Interstate 10 to the intersection of State Highway 177; West of State Highway 177 from the intersection of State Highway 62 to the intersection with Interstate 10; North of Interstate 10 from State Highway 177 to State Highway 62."
While it seems odd that the specific area where bobcat trapping is banned around one national park is outlined in the act, while numerous others are not, the boundaries where trapping would be banned are easy to understand and implement. Hunting bobcats would remain legal under the act within that area, as is "the taking of any bobcat by employees of the department acting in an official capacity, to a taking in accordance with the conditions of a scientific, educational, or propagation permit... or to the lawful taking of bobcats found to be injuring crops or other property..."
The act, introduced by Rep. Bloom on February 22, has been amended four times prior to its passage today.
Other media reports indicate that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife would study bobcat numbers and estimate how many bobcats could be trapped annually without harm to the population. That directive does not appear to be in the amended version of AB 1213, however, as it has been removed during the course of the bill's amendments. Instead, a reading of the bill provides this: "Reliable population estimates do not exist for bobcats statewide in California and neither the Department of Fish and the Fish and Game Commission possesses adequate data to determine a sustainable harvest limit for bobcats."
The bill now moves to the California Senate before final approval.
While The Sun Runner has been criticized by some members of the Joshua Tree community for not supporting a total ban of all trapping of bobcats statewide, instead urging the collection of population data on bobcats to determine what management approach would be best as no wildlife studies have been conducted on bobcat populations within the state for at least three decades; the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 as amended is an acceptable compromise.
While a more comprehensive data-based approach toward wildlife management is ultimately desired, this limitation of commercial trapping around state and national parks, preserves, monuments, and wildlife refuges should provide a solid step toward ensuring viable bobcat populations into the future.