Last winter the discovery that bobcats were being targeted by trappers around Joshua Tree National Park ignited a call to ban the practice in the state. Residents who live next to the park are banning together and pushing to protect these cats from the fur trade.
Unfortunately, trapping bobcats in California is perfectly legal from November through January, and while the bobcat population isn’t in danger (yet), the disappearances of some of them from the landscape have saddened and angered those living in the area. However, they have also brought them together in a fight for the passage of a bill that would protect bobcats from trappers.
“It literally became the world against Joshua Tree,” Tom O’Key, who found the first trap on his land earlier this year, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. “I would say it has been one of the most significant things to come to the community at large, and one of the biggest binders of people of opposite interests.”
In February, park biologist Michael Vamstad told the LA Times that, “Residents have every right to be upset. The fact that there is no limit on bobcats that can be legally taken during hunting season doesn’t jibe along the edges of a national park. It’s a relic regulation.”
The Bobcat Protection Act, AB 1213, would require trappers to stop trapping around Joshua Tree immediately, create a buffer zone around the park and ban traps on private land without the owner’s permission.
While residents are hoping to save their four-legged neighbors, hunters are fighting for their right to continue to kill them and sell their pelts at fur auctions for top markets in China, Russia and Korea, among other places, which can bring in anywhere from $200 to $1,700. State officials believe the number of bobcats killed has risen from around 600 four years ago to nearly 1,500 last year. The rising value of pelts has bobcat advocates concerned that even more will be killed.
Trapping and killing bobcats for their fur isn’t just inhumane, removing a top predator also has the potential to cause a negative impact on the ecosystem. Taking one who is loved by the public could also have a negative effect on ecotourism. An estimated 1.4 million people visit Joshua Tree every year to enjoy the landscape and catch a glimpse of the wild animals who call it home, while only a small handful of individuals have trapping licenses.
Fortunately, the bill is making progress. It passed the Assembly and now goes on to the Senate appropriations committee, which is scheduled to hear it on August 12.
Please sign and share the petition urging California’s Senate protect Joshua Tree’s resident bobcats by passing AB 1213.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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