Bobcat Season Proposal
The NH Fish and Game Department, in consultation with the NH Fish and Game Commission, has withdrawn the proposed administrative rule regarding a limited bobcat season.
On April 1, 2016, the NH Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR) entered a “Preliminary Objection” to the text of the proposed administrative rule regarding a “Limited Bobcat Season” (proceeding #2015-206).
- The N.H. Fish and Game Commission voted in October of 2015 in favor of initiating rule-making for a bobcat hunting and trapping season, to include the issuance of 50 permits (for NH residents only) via a lottery system.
- In December of 2015, the Commission approved a final draft season proposal presented by the Department, opening the way for the rule-making process to begin. The formal solicitation of public comment included collection of written input, email correspondence and comments at a two-session public hearing.
- On February 17, 2016, the NH Fish and Game Commission voted 5 to 4 to move forward on a proposal to establish a bobcat hunting and trapping season in New Hampshire.
Following completion of Fish and Game’s collaborative bobcat research study with the University of New Hampshire, the Commission asked the Department if the state’s bobcat population could sustain harvest. The Department concluded that the population could sustain modest harvest (a conservatively estimated 77 cats). Subsequently, the Commission asked the Department to generate a draft season framework. This framework, which was presented as an information item to the Commission in April of 2015, entailed the issuance of bobcat permits through a lottery process. The timing and attributes of the draft season emulated New Hampshire's existing fisher season, with December trapping and January hunting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bobcats are the most widely distributed cat species in North America. Bobcats reside in all the contiguous United States. North American bobcat populations are thought to have been on the increase since the late 1990s.
Sighting data suggest that our bobcat population has increased and expanded since 1990. Complaints about bobcats are also on the increase. Bobcat density data suggest that our population is comparable to those of neighboring states. Habitat occupancy data suggest that we have approximately 1,400 breeding bobcats in our state (as of the winter of 2014). Reproductive and age data collected from New Hampshire bobcats during the period 2007 - 2014, and used to estimate productivity and survival rates, suggest that New Hampshire’s bobcat population has been growing at an annual rate of approximately 10 percent.
As New Hampshire's bobcat population has increased and expanded, some state residents have expressed an interest in hunting and/or trapping bobcats. Other residents have expressed an interest in seeing the bobcat population continue to grow. To the extent that both interests could be simultaneously satisfied, the bobcat season proposal adopted by the Commission was consistent with the Department’s mission statement:
As the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department works in partnership with the public to:
- Conserve, manage and protect these resources and their habitats;
- Inform and educate the public about these resources;and
- Provide the public with opportunities to use and appreciate these resources.
NH Fish and Game closed bobcat hunting and trapping in 1989 because of documented population declines at that time. Declines were not isolated to New Hampshire; bobcat numbers had decreased throughout the animals’ northeast range. Interestingly, while New Hampshire chose to close bobcat hunting and trapping, our neighboring states of Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont did not alter bobcat hunting or trapping during this timeframe and have continued bobcat hunting and trapping practices to the present day. Unlike New Hampshire, the states that continued to harvest were able to monitor bobcat population increases over the past decades through data collected from hunters and trappers.
The proposed bobcat season would have facilitated continued growth in the state's bobcat population, at a rate moderately less than would have been achieved in the absence of the season.
To illustrate: if you assume a current bobcat population of 1,500 and an annual growth rate of 10 percent, our current population will expand by 150 bobcats this year. The proposed bobcat season would allow for the issuance of 50 permits or a maximum take of 50 animals (fewer animals are actually expected to be taken). The net result of said season would be 100 additional cats in the New Hampshire population (rather than 150 in the absence of a season).
In essence, the proposed season will allow for continued growth in our population, at a reduced growth rate, until the population approaches biological carrying capacity, at which point the population would stabilize. Note that these projections are based on recently collected productivity and survival estimates from New Hampshire bobcats, thereby ensuring that our bobcat population continues to grow.