bobcats

Lawson Hill is ideal habitat for bobcats. This photo was taken February 2017. (Planet file photo)

Local veterinarian Dr. Christine Capaldo has spent nearly three years studying the effects of hunting and trapping bobcats in Colorado, a practice she feels allows practitioners to profit “on a natural resource that belongs to all Coloradans.”

In December, she submitted a citizen petition urging Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to stop issuing bobcat hunting permits. The petition will be discussed during the CPW Commission’s meeting Thursday at the Courtyard Marriott on 765 Horizon Drive in Grand Junction. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. and adjourn at 5 p.m.; it will resume at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the same location and adjourn at 9:15 a.m.

Bobcats share a habitat with the Canada lynx, an endangered species, which are easily confused with bobcats. It is illegal to kill a lynx in Colorado, but bobcat traps are “indiscriminate,” Capaldo said. In 2017, there were 4,000 bobcat traps set throughout the state, according to the CPW, while up to 1,800 bobcats are harvested each year during the December-February season.

“Lynxes are very similar to bobcats and closely resemble them, so they can be shot by a bobcat hunter and they would be attracted to any bait that is set in a trap for a bobcat,” she added.

Capaldo said hunters and trappers are “self-policing in the middle of the woods,” citing the lack of enforcement surrounding the sport.

“They’re very unlikely to report an accidental take of a lynx,” she said. Since the Canada lynx was reintroduced to Colorado in 1999, there have been no reports of an accidental lynx death in connection to a bobcat hunting, she added.

Other species can be affected as well, whether they’re caught in a trap or disturbed by hunting dogs.

“Non-target species can be caught, injured and die in traps,” Capaldo said. “Bobcat hounding is also very detrimental to non-target wildlife because dogs will flush out animals from their nests, attack babies and cause stress to other wild animals.”

Another reason behind the call for halting all bobcat hunting and trapping is the way they’re killed, in an effort not to damage the pelt.

“They typically will kill them by strangulation, which takes several minutes and causes immense distress and agony to the animal. They have no regard to the animal. It’s strictly about personal profit,” she said. “Trappers will kill the bobcats by the cheapest methods possible in order to preserve the pelt and sell it for profit.”

The petition has been met with opposition. The Colorado Trappers and Predator Hunters Association has started an anti-petition campaign, asking supporters to contact the CPW Commission and attend this week’s meeting.

“This is not just a bobcat issue, it is a wildlife management issue, an animal rights issue and a protectionist vs. conservationist issue,” according to the association’s campaign. “They won’t be satisfied with just bobcats. What will be next?”

Luke Houghton, associate director of state services for Sportsmen’s Alliance, said the petition “ignores sound science and uses tactics by the extreme animal-rights community to end the harvest of a healthy and abundant species,” according to a Dec. 17 news release.

“It’s nothing but a backdoor attempt to shut down a hunting and trapping season. What is ironic, though, is this petition fails to recognize that hunters and trappers are the very reason that bobcat numbers continue to flourish in Colorado, and why the lynx population has a sustainable environment to grow its population,” he added.

The petition has been supported by Prairie Protection Colorado, Wild Earth Guardians and the Humane Society of the United States.

“CPW’s data show that trophy hunters and trappers cause most bobcat mortalities in Colorado — between 93 and 96 percent of all known mortalities,” according to a letter of support from the Humane Society of the United States, which cites a 2016-17 CPW Furbearer Management Report.

The petition is an action item on this week’s agenda, but the discussion may be delayed to a further date. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for June 7 in La Junta.

“I’m hoping that the commission will take this very seriously. This petition has raised a lot of awareness,” Capaldo said. “There have been letters written, phone calls, people seem to be very interested in this moving forward and being accepted in Colorado.”