California Protects Bobcats From Trappers

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – The California Fish and Game Commission agreed Wednesday to ban bobcat trapping and add some but not all of the state’s Pacific fisher population to its endangered species list.
     Lawmakers proposed the trapping ban due to the rise in demand for bobcat pelts internationally. The commission approved the resolution by 3-2 vote. More than 100 people testified, including trappers and researchers, in the hearing that lasted for more than two hours.
     The bill’s author, Rep. Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, tweeted that he was “elated that the CA Fish & Game Commish has just voted to ban bobcat trapping in California as a result of my legislation.”
     California is the 10th state to ban bobcat trapping. The ban could go take effect before the 2015-2016 trapping season. Bobcats can still be hunted in season in California, but not with traps.
     Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in 2013 prohibiting bobcats from being trapped near national and state parks. The commission considered instituting similar buffer zones, but went for the total ban instead.
     Supporters of the ban included the Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane Society of the United States.
     “Shy and elusive creatures, bobcats are solely killed for their fur, which is sold to overseas markets in Russia and China,” said Nicole Paquette, vice president of wildlife protection for the Humane Society. “This decision is a much-needed step in the right direction, and we thank Assembly member Bloom for his ongoing leadership to protect California’s bobcats from this cruel and unnecessary practice,” Paquette said in a statement.
     Opponents said the bobcat does not need extra protection, that it is not endangered in California, its population is thriving and the number of trapped bobcats is relatively low.
     Republicans sent the commission a letter in July, urging it to reconsider the ban and develop a new plan.
     Also Wednesday, the commission unanimously added some and denied some protections to the Pacific fisher. It added the fisher to the state’s endangered species list in Southern California but declined to protect the northern population.
     The fisher is often confused with the weasel or wolverine. A fearsome predator that punches well above its weight, fishers can weigh up to 13 lbs. and prefer forest habitats.
     Despite its name, fishers are omnivores and aren’t known for eating fish. Trappers hunted fishers into extinction in several parts of the country, but recent conservation efforts have buoyed their populations. In some places farmers and people with pets will kill them despite their protected status because fishers will kill and eat animals several times their size.
     One woman told Courthouse News she saw a fisher kill a golden retriever and drag it up a tree to eat.
     Fish and Game Director Chuck Bonham recommended the commission not add the fisher’s northern population to the endangered species list, siding with loggers and ranchers who testified the fisher is doing well in Northern California.
     Bonham disagreed with the Center for Biological Diversity, which testified that the fisher’s presence is Northern California has been decimated by wildfires.
     “We find that there’s not substantial evidence showing the northern population is in decline as of today,” Bonham said.
     A 100-square-mile wildfire continued to burn Wednesday north of San Francisco, one of nearly two dozen in drought-parched California.

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