CONCORD, N.H. >> There won't be a bobcat hunting and trapping season this year in New Hampshire, because state hunting regulators on Wednesday withdrew a proposal for the hunt amid strong opposition.
The Fish and Game Department released a statement announcing that a hunt that would have awarded 50 permits via lottery was abandoned after considering the objection by the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. The committee said the state hadn't gotten the OK from federal regulators who oversee protection of a lynx that shares the same habitat.
The department consulted with the Fish and Game Commission, which had approved the return of a limited season after hunting and trapping was banned in 1989. It had concluded the bobcat population could endure a modest hunt of around 80 animals.
But in hearings earlier this year, much of the testimony was in opposition to the season. Critics, including environmental and animal welfare groups, questioned the need for the season, the science behind the decision and whether the commission took into account all of the public comment.
Many of those groups welcomed the decision Wednesday, since many blamed hunting for causing the bobcat population to fall at one point to around 200. Now, the state estimates there are over 1,100 resident adults and that number doubles to 2,200 in the spring.
"We're so relieved the agency listened to our concerns, and that New Hampshire's bobcats and lynx are safe from hunters and trappers," Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "At public expense, these bobcat seasons would have benefited only the few who'd like to kill these beautiful animals for sport or ship their pelts overseas to China for profit. The state heard loud and clear that people value these cats in the wild and don't want to see them cruelly trapped or shot."
The New Hampshire chapter of the Humane Society was among the groups testifying that bobcat traps can catch Canada lynx, considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Since the lynx are protected, states cannot allow incidental harm to the cats without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and New Hampshire hasn't sought one yet. Other states have been sued on the issue.
"The Humane Society of the United States is thrilled that the Department of Fish and Game withdrew this misguided proposal to kill bobcats," Lindsay Hamrick, New Hampshire state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. "There was never any biological or ecological reason to open a hunt and because bobcats are not killed for food, it would have been nothing more than a trophy hunt."
Thirty-eight states have bobcat seasons, including Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts.