Courtesy photo by Mark Stevens
This yearling bobcat, weighing about 15 pounds, was caught in a leghold trap in Wilton around Thanksgiving. It was released unharmed, "sat about 30 yards away and kind of watched me, and then trotted off," said Stevens.
Not everybody is excited about the state's bobcat study, out of fear that it could be a backdoor way to justify bringing back a hunting and trapping season.
Suzanne Fournier of Milford is coordinator of a group called Speaking for Animals in NH, which is spearheading a petition to get the state to classify bobcats as a non-game species, which means they can't be hunted or trapped. Three-quarters of the state's roughly 500 veterbrate species are classified as non-game.
The online petition, which has about 2,556 signatures, argues "Trappers want to exploit bobcats to be able to sell their furs (pelts) for around $350 each."
In e-mail exchanges, Fournier pointed to the fact that state wildlife biologists Pat Tate and Mark Ellingwood met last year with the New Hampshire Trappers Association to discuss the bobcat research, and that Fish & Game's Wildlife Journal magazine once wrote that the state closed the bobcat trapping season because there were so few in the state, "Leading me to conclude that as soon as Fish & Game proves there is a good population, they will re-open the season," she wrote.
For his part, Tate denies any hidden motivation.
"It's not a push to start a hunting or trapping season," he said.
Reinstating hunting or trapping for bobcats would require a proposal to the Fish & Game commission, the public hearings and a decision sent to a joint legislative committee for a final vote - although since it would be a rule change, not a new law, it would not require the vote of the entire state Legislature.
The petition can be found on a site called ThePetitionSite.com, at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/end-trapping-of-bobcats-in-new-hampshire----permanently/.
- DAVID BROOKS