Bobcat trapping resumes in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula

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DNR schedules bobcat trapping in Lower Peninsula
10/29/2008, 5:56 p.m. ET
The Associated Press   
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Bobcat trapping will resume in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula for the first time in three years, a practice that touched off a legal battle between trappers and bear hunters.
The Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday set the season for Dec. 10-20 in an area covering most of the northern Lower Peninsula. Bobcat trapping had been illegal there for many years until the state permitted it in 2004 and 2005.
But it was discontinued after that because of a lawsuit filed by the Michigan Bear Hunters Association, which contends there aren’t enough bobcats in the Lower Peninsula to allow trapping. The animals can be trapped in season across the Upper Peninsula.
Hunting bobcats is allowed in the Lower Peninsula. But the bear hunters group says trapping bobcats is a more effective method of taking them than hunting.
Earlier this month, Ingham County Circuit Judge Thomas L. Brown sided with the DNR, allowing trapping to resume in the disputed area.
The bear hunters group has not decided whether to appeal the ruling, president Matt Pedigo said. He declined additional comment.
The department says during the 11-day season, trapping will be allowed only on private land in management units C and D. That area takes in most of the northern Lower Peninsula but excludes some western counties, mostly those along Lake Michigan.
The DNR said it was confident the additional trapping would not drive bobcat numbers too low, even though the population isn’t known.
“We don’t believe you need a population figure to carry out a season,” said Mike Bailey, species and habitat supervisor with the wildlife division. “We don’t have one for rabbits or grouse or squirrels either.”
Department biologists think bobcat numbers are rising for a number of reasons, including the expansion of their range, Bailey said.
They are present in nearly every Michigan county, he said. That represents a solid comeback from the early 20th century, when they were among a number of species that nearly disappeared from the Lower Peninsula because of habitat loss during the logging boom.
“Over the past 100 years or so, we’ve done a good job increasing habitat and protecting animals to the point where we’re able to go after them again,” Bailey said.
Trappers will be required to bring bobcats to a fur harvest registration station so biologists can collect information to help protect the population, he said.
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