Below are a series of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the current regulation proposal that addresses harvest quota and pelt sealing requirements.
November 17, 2009 -- Bobcat Management Informational Meeting, Northampton
Bobcat Regulations and Management FAQs
Q: What is known about the life history of the bobcat?
A: See the Division's "Living with Wildlife" fact sheet on bobcat.
Q: What is the status of the bobcat population?
A: The bobcat population has expanded statewide to between 1,200 - 1,300 bobcats. The expanding bobcat population in Massachusetts is also consistent with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service findings that the bobcat population has increased nationwide.
Q: What is the history of bobcat regulations in Massachusetts?
A: From 1921 to 1968, a bounty was paid for harvested bobcats, a time when bobcats were viewed as a pest. This changed when the Fisheries and Wildlife Board established the first regulated bobcat hunting season in the Northeast in 1971 to manage the bobcat as a valuable natural resource for all citizens and visitors to the Commonwealth. In 1977, a harvest quota of 50 animals was established.
Q: What recommendations for bobcat management were presented
to the Fisheries and Wildlife
A: The staff recommendations were to 1) continue efforts to acquire and secure large tracts of forest while creating early-successional habitat, as these provide high quality bobcat habitat, 2) continue outreach and public education about bobcat through presentations and the Division's Living With Wildlife fact sheet series, 3) conduct further monitoring and research surveys for bobcat and 4) consider two proposed regulation changes to the harvest regulations.
Q: What are the proposed regulation changes?
A: The first proposed regulation change would remove the current quota of 50 bobcats harvested by hunting or trapping, established by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board in 1977. The second proposed regulation change is related to the removal of the bobcat quota and would change the pelt sealing requirements for bobcats from four working days after the date of harvest to four working days from the end of the season. This change would make pelt sealing for bobcats consistent with pelt sealing for other furbearers.
Q: Why remove the harvest quota for bobcats?
A: The quota is an outdated, unnecessary, and logistically impractical method for wildlife management. It causes uncertainty among the hunting and trapping public as to whether the quota has been reached while adding wasteful administrative and communication burdens. Most importantly, the quota is unnecessary as bobcat harvest is limited by restrictive hunting and trapping methods, season length, and zones open to harvest. Bobcats are currently the only species in the Commonwealth that have a quota in place.
Q: Will there be an unlimited hunting and trapping of bobcat
as a result of removing the harvest quota?
A: No. The current restrictive hunting and trapping methods coupled with season length, and restrictions to hunting bobcats only within Wildlife Management Zones 1 through 8 will continue to limit the regulated harvest to a small number of animals. In Massachusetts, it is also illegal to use dogs to aid in bobcat hunting.
Q: How many bobcats are taken by hunters and trappers each
A: Over the last 30 years, allowable hunting and trapping methods have become increasingly restrictive resulting in the small average yearly harvest of 24 animals. The total harvest has reached 50 animals once during this period. Trappers are limited to using only box or cage traps. These traps are so difficult and ineffective for trapping bobcat that the average number of bobcats trapped per year since 1996 is less than 5.
Q: Will the removal of a quota change the number of hunters
that can participate in bobcat hunting?
A: No. The quota does not limit the number of hunters that can participate. Bobcat hunting is difficult because of the elusive nature of the animal and restrictive regulations. It is for these reasons that few hunters can be successful and thus few wish to participate.
Q: When is the hunting and trapping season for bobcat?
A: The hunting season runs from December 20 - March 8. The bobcat hunting season overlaps with portions of the coyote and fox hunting season which run from October 17 - March 8 and November 1 - February 28, respectively. The bobcat hunting season is closed during the shotgun deer season. The trapping season runs from November 1 - 30 and is the same length as the coyote, fox and weasel trapping seasons.
Q: Can bobcat be hunted anywhere in the state?
A:No, bobcats may not be hunted statewide. Bobcats can only be hunted in Wildlife Management Zones 1 through 8 which include western and central Massachusetts west of Rt. 31. Detailed map of the Wildlife Management Zones.
Q: How are bobcat typically hunted?
A: In Massachusetts, predator hunters often must rely on the use of animal distress calls which imitate an injured rabbit to attract a predator. Coyotes are the most common predator that is hunted in Massachusetts, and on occasion, a bobcat may come in to an animal distress call. There are a few hunters that will specifically target bobcat through tracking, however, given the elusive nature of this animal, this method is very difficult. It is very challenging to harvest a bobcat through either hunting or trapping, given the restrictive methods of take coupled with the elusive nature of the bobcat.
Q: What are the Division's conclusions about bobcats in Massachusetts?
A: Given the increasing and expanding bobcat population, it is logical that the number of bobcats harvested could potentially increase due to an increased number of bobcats on the landscape. However, due to current restrictions to bobcat hunting and trapping, which include season length, restrictive methods of take, and zone restrictions have maintained low levels of bobcat harvest and will continue to restrict the number of bobcats harvested if the quota is removed. The Division is confident that through continued monitoring and modern wildlife management techniques, the bobcat population will remain at sustainable levels for the future enjoyment of all residents and visitors of the Commonwealth.