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Last year, due to significant public opposition, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Commission withdrew a proposal to open up a bobcat trophy hunting and trapping season.

Yes! The IDNR heard its constituents loud and clear: Indiana citizens do not want bobcats, their only native wildcat, to be killed. Apparently, a few Indiana legislators didn’t get the message.

Legislation has been introduced, in the form of HB 1407, which ignores both the commission’s position and that of Hoosiers. If passed, it would sanction a bobcat hunting and trapping season, the first in almost 50 years.

Here are some critical reasons why the bill is misguided and wrong for Indiana: 

It bears repeating: The opposition to

hunting bobcats is significant

In September 2017 IDNR proposed a rule in its biennial rule package to initiate a bobcat hunting and trapping season and opened up the proposal to a public comment period. Comments against the proposed bobcat hunt during the initial process outnumbered the pro-hunting comments by 4 to 1. Subsequently, during the formal comment period, more than 1,300 Hoosiers voiced their objection, while only 125 were in favor. As a result, the IDNR withdrew the proposed rule in its May 2018 hearing.

Bobcat populations are still recovering

Until they were placed under state protection in 1969, Indiana’s bobcats were nearly extinct due to overhunting, trapping and habitat loss. Bobcats remained on the endangered species list until 2005 and have been protected from hunting ever since. This protection has enabled them to make a slow recovery, but that progress could be erased if a hunting and trapping season is allowed. Since there is no accurate population count of bobcats in the state, no one knows if the species can withstand being killed. 

A survey in March 2018 conducted by Remington Research Group and commissioned by the Humane Society of the United States revealed an overwhelming majority of Indiana voters in all parts of the state agree that the agency should do a comprehensive population count on bobcats before proposing a trophy hunting and trapping season. Such a population count has still not been conducted and now, a handful of legislators want trophy hunters and trappers to be able to kill bobcats without having any idea how many bobcats live in our state.

Conflicts with bobcats are rare

Incidents of bobcats killing livestock is rare, and there are no verified accounts of bobcats attacking pets. In fact, these shy animals’ natural instinct is to avoid people. Spotting a bobcat is a rare and treasured event. 

Bobcats are only slightly larger than the pet cats we have in our homes. Because they prey on mice and other small rodents, they actually are considered beneficial to farmers.

Bobcats are killed cruelly and

solely for trophies and their fur

Bobcats are killed not for food but as trophies or for their fur. The proposed bill would allow bobcats — and all-too often family pets and non-target wildlife accidentally — to be trapped using cruel, steel-jawed leghold traps. Animals caught in these traps are left to languish in agony for hours in winter conditions until a trapper returns to shoot the animal at point-blank range. It’s also common for these animals to be killed by horrific methods such as clubbing, drowning or strangulation, so the fur pelt doesn’t get damaged.

Killing animals just for their

fur commercializes the species

Because bobcats are killed for a few to profit off their fur, this commercializes the entire species, depriving Indiana residents of the opportunity to enjoy and experience that animal. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, a set of guiding principles established by many state wildlife management agencies decades ago, mandates that wildlife is a public resource that belongs to everyone. Commercializing bobcats directly contradicts that model. 

Indiana citizens expressed their overwhelming dissent on hunting bobcats last year. Our lawmakers should respect that position and the lives of our only native wildcat — call your representative to urge him/her to vote “no” on HB 1407 and keep Indiana’s bobcats protected.

Erin Huang is the Indiana state director for the Humane Society of the United States. Prior to joining the HSUS, Huang worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney in Marion County, Indiana, focusing exclusively on animal cruelty offenses. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.