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North Country audience favors proposed bobcat hunting season

Eight of the 11 members, including chairman & forester Ted Tichy of Milan, 5th from left, of the state Fish and Game Commission, listened closely on Tuesday, Feb. 2, in Lancaster as North Country residents made 3-minute-long statements to let the panel know whether or not they are in favor of the 50-bobcat hunting & trapping season that is being proposed. F & G Wildlife Division Chief Mark Ellingwood, right, served as timekeeper. (Photo by Edith Tucker) (click for larger version)
February 10, 2016
LANCASTER — More speakers in the North Country were in favor of opening up a 50-bobcat season on Tuesday night, Feb. 2, than were opposed at the second of two public hearings held by the state Fish and Game Commission. A crowd of about 150 people, many wearing round orange "Yes" (to) Bobcat Season stickers with a paw print drawing, was on hand.

The previous evening, some 565 people had packed Representatives Hall in the State House in Concord, including the balcony, where a majority spoke against the proposed hunt, according to news reports.

Fish and Game proposes an annual two-month-long season: by trapping from Dec. 2 to Dec. 31, and by firearms from Jan. 1 to Jan. 31. A bobcat permit fee of $100 would be imposed, and five management regions would be designated, each with its own limit: North, 10; White Mountains, 10; Central, 14; Southwest, 13, and Southeast, 3. Bobcat permit would be awarded via a lottery — a computer selection of random applicant numbers.

Last year UNH biologists reported on the results of a study that Fish and Game commissioned in which they estimated that during the years 1989 to 2015, the state's bobcat population had rebounded from less than 200 cats to somewhere between 800 and 1,400 — an increase on average of somewhat more than five percent a year that some believe represents "a harvestable surplus."

Many of those opposed to reopening a bobcat hunt point out that, unlike prey-species, predator populations like the bobcat, self-regulate their numbers in line with the abundance and availability of their prey, such as mice, squirrels, snowshoe hare, and birds.

Bob Rodrique of Berlin, speaking as president of the Androscoggin Valley Fish and Game Association and its 400 sportsmen members, testified in favor of issuing 50 permits to reopen a bobcat season. Others — both trappers and hunters — also spoke up for taking bobcats, describing it as part of the state's heritage and their own. A Humane Society spokesman said that just knowing that these beautiful wild animals are in the woods is therapeutic and comforting.

Mary Grote of Franconia warned that if a bobcat season opened she would post her 65 acres of land for the first time. Other opponents described trapping as inhumane and warned that Canada lynx, an endangered species, could be killed by accident.

Joyce Brady of Columbia, who heads up the Coös County Farm Bureau, asked the F & G Commission not to listen to the emotional side of the arguments against killing bobcats but to understand that their game meat is eaten and their pelts valued.

Bob Lord of Errol, who has fought against the expansion of the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, said that he has seen a 40-lb. bobcat stalking his chicken pen but he suggested that opening up trapping and hunting them now is important because, he predicts, a third of Coös County's acreage will be swallowed up by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that would then create a vast "no-hunt" zone.

John Harrigan of Colebrook, who writes a column for Salmon Press papers, said that killing bobcats "is not a wise use of this wild animal," even though its population would not be endangered because of hunting and trapping. "It's not a case of 'can,' but 'should' — not can we, but should we. And I say we should not," Harrigan said. "I think this is a mistake; don't follow the science out the window, but follow your heart. Don't pay attention to what other states do, but have New Hampshire tbe a leader on this one.

WMRHS natural resources teacher Jenn Scarinza of Randolph thanked the Commission for holding a hearing up north, where the civil debate reflected the thoughtful discussions on the topic that had taken place in her classroom.

The next Commission meeting is at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17, in Concord.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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