Louisiana lets hunters bag bobcats starting this fall|
Posted on August 7, 2003
Gannett Capital Bureau
BATON ROUGE -- For the first time since 1978, Louisiana hunters who have a big game license will be allowed to kill bobcats, one per deer season, beginning this fall.
The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission unanimously adopted the new hunting regulation Wednesday over objections of an animal protection group seeking to block the rule pending collection of scientific data to support the necessity for controlling the bobcat population.
The Louisiana Legislature authorized bobcat hunting when it passed Act 1248 during the recent session. The bill originally provided for legal killing of bobcats and foxes but was amended to delete foxes.
Supporters of the legislation said there have been increased sightings of bobcats in recent years and a corresponding decline in the rabbit population.
"There's no biological data to justify taking bobcats. The data they are using is from the '70s," said Beau Gast, communications director for the Louisiana Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.
Gast insisted his group is not opposed to hunting and the control of animal populations through the annual harvest of game animals. But the group would like to see the commission delay approval of a bobcat season until current data can be collected and a management plan proposed, he said.
"The harvest limit proposed here today is really quite conservative," said Mike Chamberlain, an LSU professor who said he studied bobcats for his doctoral research. "It's my belief, based on our research, the bobcat harvest here will reflect the Mississippi harvest."
Louisiana has half the forested acreage of Mississippi in bottomland hardwoods, said Tommy Prickett, a wildlife specialist with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. "Based on that, we project the harvest here will be half the Mississippi harvest."
Mississippi has no limit on the number of bobcats that can be killed by hunters. Data collected by Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries staff show 150,000 licensed deer hunters in Mississippi reported taking 3,482 bobcats in the 2001-2 hunting season. The Louisiana harvest is projected to be about 2,000 bobcats per season, Prickett said.
Prior to 1978, bobcats were classified as outlaw quadrupeds and could be harvested by a licensed hunter any time except at night. The rules were changed that year to allow the taking of bobcats by trappers for their furs.
When fur prices plummeted, so did the number of harvested bobcats, Prickett said. The number of bobcats taken annually has hovered around 350 for several years, he said.