A bill introduced in California this week would end all trophy hunting of bobcats, making the Golden State the first in the union to move decisively to protect one of our country’s most iconic native carnivores.
Assembly bill 1254, introduced by Assembly Member Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Los Angeles, would make it unlawful to trophy hunt bobcats, unless an individual animal poses a danger to humans or livestock. While some states have added temporary bans on trophy hunting bobcats after their numbers dropped too low because of hunting, trapping and habitat loss, the bill in California goes above and beyond by taking a proactive step to end needless and cruel trophy hunting before the animals are pushed to the verge of extinction.
Bobcats are currently trophy hunted in 40 states. Our wildlife team and our state directors have been working to end this practice, and we’ve successfully prevented recent efforts in some states, including New Hampshire, Indiana and Ohio, to open up trapping and trophy hunting of bobcats. The California bill is an urgent priority for us.
Over the past decade, trophy hunters have killed more than 10,000 bobcats in California. This has happened despite a series of protections put in place by citizens and lawmakers. In 1998, voters passed Proposition 4 to ban the use of steel-jawed, leghold and other body-gripping traps used to capture and hold wildlife, including bobcats. In 2012, the California legislature banned the cruel hound hunting of bobcats and black bears. Legislators quickly followed up with the passage of the Bobcat Protection Act in 2013, which limited bobcat trapping, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife banned commercial and recreational bobcat trapping altogether in 2015.
There is no good reason to kill bobcats. These elusive and beautiful animals are only slightly larger than most house cats, and weigh between 16 and 30 pounds. They pose no significant risk to livestock and a recently released HSUS report shows bobcats did not kill any cattle or sheep in California in 2014 and 2015, the two latest years for which data was available. The only people who benefit from killing them are trophy hunters looking to decorate their living rooms with bobcats’ body parts, or trappers hoping to make a few bucks by selling pelts.
Bobcats are an integral part of California’s native landscape, and they support the health of the state’s natural ecosystems. These small carnivores primarily eat a variety of rodents, squirrels, rabbits and other small animals. Bobcat kittens are highly dependent on their mothers for up to 10 months, and when a mother bobcat falls to a trophy hunter, her kittens could die from starvation or predation by other animals.
In recent years, bobcats have also faced a growing threat from California’s urban development, which has been eating away at their habitats. The recent drought and deadly wildfires that have plagued the state have left these animals struggling even more to forage and survive in an ever-changing environment.
Passage of the legislation in California would be a landmark victory and we’ll be putting all of our might behind it to push it to the finish line. We know Californians value animal protection -- the state banned mountain lion hunting as far back as 1971, and has passed and enacted some of the most progressive laws in just the last year on farm animal welfare, ending cosmetics testing and ending puppy mill sales in pet stores.
If you live in the state, we'll be counting on your help in the days to come. Please reach out to your Assembly member. Ask them to support AB 1254 and end the trophy hunting of bobcats for good.