MBHA continues to push for one bobcat limit, calling for separate tag for bobcats
By Victor Skinner
LANSING – The Michigan Bear Hunters Association continues to push for a one bobcat limit statewide during the 2018 furbearer regulation cycle, with plans to call on the legislature to create a separate bobcat license.
“The (bobcat) harvest is in just a steady decline and the DNR says it’s not worried about the population,” MBHA President Tim Dusterwinkle said. “We think the numbers should be much higher, we want to go back to the levels of 20 years ago, much higher.”
“We’ve really advocated for a one cat statewide limit and I think we’re getting closer to that,” he said. “We feel the bobcat is really a big game species, and we’re sponsoring a resolution at (Michigan United Conservation Clubs) to have bobcat with a stand-alone license with the big game recognition we believe it deserves.”
Dusterwinkle believes the move to treat bobcats as big game is justified by guides who charge $1,500 or more for guided hunts, and Wisconsin’s quota and lottery system for bobcat tags. Many hunters are concerned that guides are also less discriminate about female and small cats and could be impacting the population because they’re typically more successful than most hunters.
Current regulations allow Michigan hunters to harvest one bobcat in the Lower Peninsula, a combination of one above and one below the bridge, or two bobcats in the Upper Peninsula.
The Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association, and Upper Peninsula trappers in general, have long opposed the one-cat limit.
“We don’t think it’s as big of a problem as the bear hunters do,” MTPCA President Dale Hendershot told The Bear Facts last fall.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources furbearer specialist Adam Bump said “the one cat limit is one of the issue we specifically told stakeholders we would be looking at this year.”
DNR officials met with the MBHA, MTPCA, MUCC and other groups in September to discuss the issue and others, and are now reviewing feedback to form a recommendation to the Natural Resources Commission for this spring about potential changes.
“We’re still in the process of review … and we’ll get the last bits of input in February,” when stakeholders meet again, Bump said.
DNR officials have resisted the move to a one bobcat limit in part because of opposition from trappers, but also because the harvest of two cats has become less common, he said.
“The houndsmen have been pushing for a one cat limit for a long time,” Bump said. “I don’t think I’ve heard as vehement objections from the trappers as I have in the past, but they’ll tell you they’re opposed to a one cat limit.”
“The overall harvest of using that second tag is pretty low,” he said. “I think in the last few years it’s been around 50 people who have taken two cats. It’s quite a bit lower than historically.”
DNR officials do not conduct population estimates for bobcats, but Bump said the harvest over the last half decade has averaged about 400 cats in the Upper Peninsula and about 300 in the Lower Peninsula.
“In recent years, it’s been on the lower end …,” he said, adding that about 200 cats were taken from each peninsula in 2016.
Bump said that because the second tag harvest is so low, DNR officials are indifferent about whether the state moves to a one cat limit.
“In principle, there isn’t much of a reason to oppose it. From a management perspective, we could do it either way,” he said.
MUCC Deputy Director Amy Trotter said “MUCC doesn’t really have any overarching policy on” the statewide bobcat limit, and noted that the group’s membership is in conflict over the issue.
Trotter said the creation of a separate bobcat license is a legislative issue that was last reviewed when the state restructured its hunting and fishing licenses in 2013. That legislative package initially contained a five-year sunset clause, which was later removed through legislation in 2016 that created electronic licenses.
In 2013, “the department focused on simplifying” the license structure, Trotter said, and “they didn’t want to complicate it further (with a separate bobcat license) for legislators on what was already a controversial vote.”
“We kind of committed to holding off on license suggestions until that five-year sunset passed,” she said. That issue is now moot because the sunset is gone.
“I believe (the MBHA) will bring a resolution to our policy meeting in March” to create a separate bobcat license, Trotter said. “It’s appropriately timed to have a look at that issue.”
If the resolution is approved it will move on to discussions among MUCC’s full membership at the organization’s convention, held June 22-24 at Clare’s Doherty Hotel.
If approved at the convention, the issue would become a legislative priority for MUCC.
The MBHA is also engaged in other furbearer regulation discussions, including a push to allow hound hunters to take fisher.