Alisa Manzelli, exclusive to Global Animal
CALIFORNIA — The Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 is currently on its way to Governor Jerry Brown for review after passing the Senate and clearing the Assembly last week.
Since U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials reported that 1,500 bobcats were trapped along the border of Joshua Tree National Park last year alone—more than twice the number of trappings in 2009, a group of Southland activists have been working to condemn the trapping with state Assembly Bill 1213.
Authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, the bill would not only make it illegal to trap, sell, or export bobcats or bobcat parts taken from the area, but the legislation would also create a buffer zone around the national park and prohibit wire cage traps on private land without the owner’s written permission. It also requires that the Department of Fish and Wildlife sets trapping and tagging license fees at a rate that will recover the costs of the trapping program.
The no-trapping zone includes the areas east and south of State Highway 62 from the intersection of Interstate 10 to the intersection of State Highway 177; west of State Highway 177 from the intersection of State Highway 62 to the intersection with Interstate 10; and north of Interstate 10 from State Highway 177 to State Highway 62. The buffer zone would also encompass Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.
Trapping advocates maintain that few of the bobcats taken from the Mojave Desert are captured near Joshua Tree given the large number of homes and private land in the area.
Regardless, local bobcat defenders are concerned the recent jump in fur pelt prices—from about $80 in 2010 to current prices of $400 or more—will encourage bobcat trapping in the area.
These numbers align with a growing trend in the international fur industry. According to the International Fur Trade Association, fur sales jumped 71 percent from 2000 to 2010.
“Trapping, for the past ten years, has been higher than it had been historically,” according to wildlife expert Michael Vamstad with the Joshua Tree National Park, who also claimed a large percentage of bobcat skins are often exported overseas and used for clothing and other items.
However, Kevin Brennan, a biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, claims there’s little danger of the bobcat population dwindling. In fact, there’s a legal trapping season that takes place every year from November through January where bobcat trappers are allowed to harvest up to 14,400 bobcats throughout the state.
Yet in previous decades, the number of bobcats killed by hunters and trappers topped 20,000 in a year.
Brown has 30 days from the day the bill reaches his desk to sign or veto it.
“Until the governor signs the bill, our task is not done,” said Brendan Cummings, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity—a key proponent of AB 1213. “And then once it’s signed, we need to make sure it’s properly enforced.”
If signed, the no-trapping zone would come into effect as of Jan. 1, 2014. Similar zoning would be implemented throughout state parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges elsewhere over the course of the following year.
Project Bobcat is making its final push to make sure AB 1213, The Bobcat Protection Act becomes law but they need your help to do so! Call California Governor Jerry Brown at (916) 445-2841 to let him know that you support AB 1213 and expect him to support it, too!
Project Bobcat is also looking for local Morongo Basin-area volunteers to help spread the word. If interested, please contact them at: [email protected].