Kenwood Press


Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

email print
Living with Wildlife: 09/15/2015

Long struggle leads to big win for bobcats


Photo by Keli Hendricks


In early 2013, Tom O’Key discovered an illegally placed bobcat trap on his property near Joshua Tree National Park. He left a note for the trapper, and took the trap to the sheriff’s office. He also contacted his local radio station and newspaper who got on the story and stirred up the residents of that area. Many were already aware that local bobcats were disappearing at an alarming rate. That incident sparked a movement that has, more than two years later, culminated in banning the trapping and commercial trade in bobcats in the state of California.

Up until now, bobcat trapping was nearly unregulated in the state. While there was a season, people could trap as many bobcats as they wanted to. At Joshua Tree they would lure them out of the park, where they were protected, with scents and other attractants.

Bobcats were being targeted for their pelts, which were going to the luxury fur markets in China and Russia. Bobcat fur was previously considered a low-value pelt, but as other spotted cats got placed on the Endangered Species List, bobcat pelts became more valuable. Pelts were going for $200-$700 and up only to be made into purses and slippers for foreign markets. While there were only three bobcat trappers in the Joshua Tree area, they nearly decimated the local population. When so few can do so much damage, laws really need to change.

Within a month of the illegal trap discovery, enough people were enraged enough that they were able to get Assemblyman Richard Bloom to introduce the Bobcat Protection Bill, AB1213. They originally tried to go for a statewide ban, but, as so often happens in politics, had to settle for less. The bill would prohibit the commercial trapping of bobcats in buffer zones adjacent to national and state parks, national monuments or wildlife refuges. Another provision was that the fees for trapping had to cover the cost of the program, which they had not previously done.

AB1213 was signed into law by Governor Brown on Oct. 11, 2013, and would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

After a slow start it soon became apparent that the Department of Fish and Wildlife was having a difficult time coming up with the buffer zones, the cost to the department of monitoring them, and dealing with a majority of the public who were still hoping for a total ban. Over this past year I attended several Fish and Game Commission meetings and spoke for a total ban. It would be the Commission, rather than the Department that would make the final decision. In the few years that I have been attending Commission meetings, there has been a sea change. Originally the room was filled with hunters and trappers and I felt very uncomfortable being there. Ever so slowly they have been outnumbered by citizen scientists, people who prefer to see their wildlife alive rather than dead, and conservationists,both professional and individual.

The Fish & Game Commission has traditionally been a sort of good ole’ boys club that was in total support of fishermen, hunters and trappers. The Commissioners are appointed by the Governor. A sea change seems to be happening there as well. Just one month before the final decision was to be made on bobcat trapping, Governor Brown appointed two new Commissioners to replace two whose terms had expired. Everyone who had worked so long and hard on this issue immediately became nervous about two new, unknown people who had to be swayed in favor of the bobcat.

Finally, on Aug. 5, at a jam packed Commission meeting held in Fortuna, the final vote occurred. By my count, there were over 100 public speakers – that’s huge for a meeting like this – supporting a statewide ban. About six spoke against it. In addition, the DFW received over 25,000 comments, letters and signatures urging a statewide ban. There were representative there from The Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote, Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Mountain Lion Foundation and many, many more.

The two new Commissioners had reviewed everything from the previous meetings, and going against the Department’s recommendation of trapping zones rather than a total ban, they both voted in favor of a statewide ban. The President of the Commission sided with them. The final vote was 3/2. Both of the new Commissioners spoke very intelligently and eloquently at the meeting. I think there is reason for optimism for California’s wildlife.

And so, our precious bobcats, a top predator in this state, will no longer have to fear being trapped. California is the first state in the nation to ban all commercial trapping of bobcats. Once again, we see that Californians care about their wildlife. And once again, we see what a small group of dedicated people did to turn this into a statewide issue. Let’s hear it for the bobcats – they need their fur more than anyone else does!

Sharon Ponsford is a Glen Ellen resident and longtime volunteer with Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.


Sharon Ponsford is a a longtime volunteer with Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue and a former board member of the California Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators. She lives in Glen Ellen. If you have questions or would like to ask her about our local wildlife, please email her at sharon@kenwoodpress.com.
Email: sharon@kenwoodpress.com

Recently Published:

11/15/2017 - Wildfires, wildlife and the rest of us
09/15/2017 - Hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and wildfires all impact wildlife
08/15/2017 - Ending one chapter, starting another
06/15/2017 - Urban wildlife goes mainstream
05/15/2017 - Thursdays with Oliver
04/15/2017 - Tree trimming and trapping – proceed with extreme caution
02/15/2017 - Sonoma Valley = Bear Country
01/15/2017 - Our noisy neighbors: Woodpeckers
12/15/2016 - Books about nature make great gifts
11/15/2016 - Mountain lions, big and small
10/15/2016 - Governor Brown improves lives for captive wildlife in entertainment
09/15/2016 - Rattlesnakes
08/15/2016 - A wildlife corridor in Sonoma Valley
07/01/2016 - Tips for helping wildlife
06/01/2016 - Barn Owl boxes – nature’s own pest control
04/15/2016 - Spring Fawn? Leave it alone!
03/15/2016 - Non-lethal solutions to ranching with wildlife
02/15/2016 - Wild animals do not make good pets
01/15/2016 - Remembering Doug Tompkins: Environmentalist extraordinaire
12/15/2015 - Books about wildlife
11/15/2015 - Wolves return to California; welcome to the Shasta Pack
10/15/2015 - The year of the skunk
08/15/2015 - Wildfires, wildlife, and memories
06/15/2015 - The Henno-Dunbar ravens: wild neighbors
05/15/2015 - Wildlife viewing along the California coast

Recently Published:

05/15/2019 - 'Community beautification abounds'
05/15/2019 - OVA Board opening
05/15/2019 - Last call for Wrongful Doings at Woeful Ranch
05/15/2019 - Sounding the alarm
05/15/2019 - Glen Ellen Fire public hearing for parcel tax on May 21
05/15/2019 - New roadside clean up program
05/15/2019 - SVCAC to hear GE mixed-use project
05/15/2019 - Coming in for a landing...
05/15/2019 - Business Beat for May 15, 2019
05/15/2019 - Community meeting on water service yields results
05/15/2019 - Kiwanis raising funds for student scholarships
05/15/2019 - Vegetation management, controlled burning could begin this month
05/15/2019 - Flapjacks for firefighters
05/15/2019 - Rash of vehicle break-ins
05/01/2019 - Emergency preparedness workshop coming up
05/01/2019 - Prices go up at Sugarloaf May 1
05/01/2019 - A year on Sugarloaf Ridge
05/01/2019 - Possible cost of SDC acquisition outlined
05/01/2019 - Kenwood Community Church calls new pastor
05/01/2019 - Fire safe council has stamp of approval
05/01/2019 - Fire district consolidation planning moves forward
05/01/2019 - Going Jack to Jack...
05/01/2019 - Gives new meaning to ‘dumpster fire’
05/01/2019 - Sugarloaf Ridge State Park celebrates half a century
05/01/2019 - Inspections at 3,500+ properties to help reduce wildfire risk in county

Community Calendar

Trail work
05/23/2019
more...
Emergency response, CPR training in Glen Ellen
05/25/2019
more...
Sierra Garden now open near Oakmont
05/25/2019
more...
Kenwood Community Church service
05/26/2019
more...
Sugarloaf Turns 50! A Celebration of a Special Park
05/27/2019
more...
Family hike
05/27/2019
more...
Al Anon meeting
05/29/2019
more...
Sonoma Speaker Series features Tony award-winner McKechnie
05/29/2019
more...
Oakmont Farmers Market
06/01/2019
more...
Sierra Garden now open near Oakmont
06/01/2019
more...
Come to the Bennett Valley picnic!
06/02/2019
more...


Weather Underground PWS KCAKENWO2