New York now has 5,000-some bobcats and hopes to double the number currently killed by hunters and trappers. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s new five-year plan plan calls for expanding the hunting season and region–right down into what it calls the the “New York City Transition Wildlife Management Unit.”
That’s Cold Spring or Woodbury Commons outlet mall to you and me. Bobcat trapping and hunting will happen in NY’s region 3P and 3N, Dutchess, Putnam, Orange and Rockland counties. Only a handful of bobcats have been seen there in since 2006. Actually Westchester County–where nobody can shoot bobcats–has seen more. There’s no hunt on Long Island, where they don’t think bobcats live anymore.
The population of bobcats (Lynx rufus) is growing across the east and sightings of New York bobcats are up in the last decade–though nobody knows for sure how much or why. From 1977-1994 hunters took about 100-150 of the small, spotted cats a year. Then numbers starting climbing. By 2004, they hit 400 and have stayed in the 400 to 500 range since. One biologist estimated in 1990 that 20% was the upper limit of what the state could safely eliminate through hunting each year. And that’s where the DEC would like to take it.
The DEC acknowledges lots of people would love to get a chance to see these elusive, sneaky cats. But in their new five-year plan, they don’t take into account how to please wildlife watchers, as the blog Coyote, Wolves and Cougars points out. Instead they worry about whether the price of bobcat pelts on the international market will dip too low to push more guys into the woods to trap. Yeah, some guy might make $50 to $200 selling a bobcat coat to the Chinese. But imagine how much money would be made if a tracker could bring people to try to see a bobcat on a tour you could reach by a Metro North train from Grand Central.
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