DEC wants to expand bobcat harvest

    Map shows proposed changes in regulations for hunting and trapping bobcats. NYSDEC.
Map shows proposed changes in regulations for hunting and trapping bobcats. NYSDEC.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation wants to allow more hunting and/or trapping of bobcats in many parts of the state, including the Adirondacks.

In a draft five-year management plan, DEC reports that the state’s bobcat population—now estimated to be five thousand—has been growing, especially in the Southern Tier. Roughly twice the size of housecats, bobcats prey on a variety of species, from small voles to white-tailed deer.

A bobcat. Photo from NYSDEC.
A bobcat. Photo from NYSDEC.

DEC says up to 20 percent of the state’s bobcats (i.e., a thousand animals) could be killed by hunters and trappers each year without hurting the population. In recent years, sportsmen have harvested between four hundred and five hundred a year. Under its proposed plan, DEC estimates that this tally would increase by less than a hundred, still well below the critical threshold.

As indicated by the map above, the trapping season in the Adirondacks and the rest of the North Country would be extended. The season now runs from October 25 to December 10. Under the plan, it would be extended to February 15. The hunting season will not change.

The trapping season in the Adirondacks had been shorter than elsewhere to protect fishers. Since the fisher population has rebounded, the department feels that rationale no longer obtains.

The plan also calls for extending both the hunting and trapping seasons in central Tug Hill to February 15.

In the biggest change, DEC wants to initiate hunting and trapping of bobcats in much of the Southern Tier, where the population has increased dramatically over the past decade. “What began as occasional sightings along the New York/Pennsylvania border has progressed to large numbers of observations, trail camera photos, and incidental captures and releases by trappers,” the proposed plan says. “Over the past five years there have been 332 bobcat observations documented in the harvest expansion area.”

DEC also seeks to allow hunting and trapping of bobcats in the region just north of New York City.

The public has until February 16 to comment on the proposal.

Click the link below to read the plan (PDF file).

 bobcat plan

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Michael Everhart says

    Why??? Do they taste good?? They sure look better alive.Please grow a pair and stop this!And while you are at it…please stop that mess in Tupper Lake from ever getting started.

  2. James Marshall says

    If the NY bobcat population were allowed to expand south to Pa, they would provide better management of the white-tail population, which is a disaster in Pa. Roadways are littered with carcasses and Lyme disease is commonplace. I am a resident of both states and the difference in white tail management is all too obvious.

  3. Bill Chriswell says

    I doubt whether there is any good reason for this….money has to be involved somehow..This is a stupid idea!

  4. Phil Brown says

    @Dave, no bobcats are not a problem. Very few nuisance complaints, according to DEC.

    @James, bobcats apparently are migrating to Southern Tier, so I assume Pa. has plenty of bobcats, too.

  5. Wren Hawk says

    Trapping is brutal. I know there are folks that consider trapping a way of life, but I’m opposed across the board. Too indiscriminate, too brutal, too dangerous. Unless you are going to eat them or wear their fur, no need to kill bobcats.

  6. Cathy Catranis says

    The obvious point of concern here is that the mating season of bobcats is during February. With the extension of the hunting season into February, the impact on the population will include cull of pregnant or, perhaps, nursing females. I am not sure what the allowable target percent pregnant/nursing females is with this new plan but I would like to know what data were used and how the decision was made to extend the cull date into the reproductive season.

    In a classic, 1985 study done in Oklahoma (Rolley, R E, et al. 1985. Dynamics of a harvested bobcat population in Oklahoma. J. Wildl. Manage. 49(2):283-292, the ‘age structure of the harvest was 26% juveniles, 32% yearlings, 43% adults with a sex ratio of 50:50 and pregnancy of yearling females at 46% and 92% in adult females. Mean in utero litter size for yearling and adult females was 2.3 and 2.7 kittens/litter, respectively.’ This article stated that “continued harvest of already low density bobcat populations may further depress the populations and result in local extirpation.”

    The population density in the Oklahoma study area was one adult bobcat per 11 square kilometers (=1 bobcat/4.25 square miles or 0.24 bobcats/ square mile). According to the NYS DEC bobcat management report for 2012-2017 the harvest history through the 2009-2010 season in NE and SE NY has been 0.012 bobcats/sq mile and 0.034 bobcats/ sq mile. This would be, approximately 5% to 14% of the level considered a “low density”/not recommended for hunting population in the Oklohoma study. I did not see, in the NYS bobcat management report, the actual numbers for current population densities for the areas surveyed in New York State. Of course, these current population numbers by region and age class would provide the public with the information to which it is entitled to make comparisons to data reported in other, similar studies. Such well informed comparisons are the basis for the well researched decisions required for effective management of healthy bobcat population. If these data exist elsewhere, I would appreciate the having the link; I will continue follow the news on this issue.

    Many thanks,

    Cathy Catranis

  7. Phil Brown says

    I asked DEC spokesman David Winchell to respond to Cathy’s comments. Here is his reply:

    “This is a draft plan for which we are accepting public comment until February 16. We encourage Ms. Catranis and others to provide their concerns and comments to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Bobcat Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to (type *Bobcat Plan* in the subject line).”

  8. TiSentinel65 says

    The goal of trapping is not to brutalize the animal or torture it. It is to catch the animal and to dispatch it quickly. Trappers do not want their catch to struggle and ruin their pelt. The law says traps must be checked every twenty four hours. In the Adirondacks I believe it is fourty eight. Most trappers are ethical and practice according to the law. It is in their best interest to check their traps often. People can subscribe to the PETA line that trapping is brutal, that is their opinion, however many people trap to supplement their incomes. Man is a predator. To trap, gather, hunt, and till the soil is natural. Please, check your Disney lens at the door. In nature, death sustains lifes cycle. Nothing is wasted. If the world economy really tanks, your life may have to rely on your ingrained instinct to trap. Not so brutal anymore is it.

  9. Kevin Burke says

    Phil – It is not accurate to state that “They’re hunted as “trophies”…” While that may be a motive for a considerable number of hunters it would certainly not be a major motive for trappers. Trappers are mainly interested in the fur and a quick google search will turn up people with and looking for Bobcat recipes.

    Dave / Bill – there is nothing wrong with hunting just for sake of hunting. “Hunting” should be considered to include eating and other utilization of the animal which is what happens with the vast majority of animals killed during hunting. In addition, NYS has a “wanton waste” law and typically those who would kill an animil they do not like eating provide that to friends or neighbors that do like eating it.

    I hunt but do not trap and personally have never thought of killing a bobcat because I did not think I would like the taste and they are beautiful and ecologically important animals. As with all animals that I would consider shooting, I only do so if I will eat the animal. In my opinion, if someone hunts or traps only to kill an animal, they will not do so very long. These activities are far too expensive, time consuming, and typically unsuccessful for all but the most psychotic of personalities to do so just to kill something.

    If the DEC thinks these regulations will allow both the hunting / trapping and a sustainable population I am for it. I think people should look to the DEC’s successful management of the state’s bear population – which as seen both increased numbers taken by hunters and an expanding population – as good proof of their expertise and goals.

  10. Phil says

    Kevin, I understand trappers take bobcats for their pelts. As to taking them for trophies, I was referring to hunters. DEC says the cats are often stuffed. Do you know if any hunters eat the meat?

  11. Dave says

    “there is nothing wrong with hunting just for sake of hunting.”

    Hunting for the sake of hunting is killing a wild animal for no legitimate purpose. For the fun of it… or for a trophy, etc.

    I think most people, including a lot of hunters (at least the ones I know), would disagree with you that there is nothing wrong with that.

    That the DEC awkwardly phrases this as “for enjoyment” doesn’t help the perception.

  12. Wren Hawk says

    Just because the goal of trapping is a fine pelt (and who really needs a pelt…for what? decoration?) and there are laws providing minimal standards, doesn’t mean that a predator species with their leg in a trap for 12, 24 or 36 hours, isn’t panicked, frustrated and frightened – or whatever you want to call their responses. All the more panicked when a predator (the trapper) approaches them to dispatch them. You’ve got a thoroughly stressed, wounded animal by then. As to the easy brush off about Disney lens, I think it is quite possible to believe in hunting for food without supporting needless agony of the animal. If you miss your shot as a competent hunter and wound the deer, aren’t you obligated to track it and end it’s life as quickly as possible? There are many organizations far more conservative than PETA that seek an end to trapping in this day and age. Part of that is due to the indiscriminate nature of a trap, often capturing animals of various species including people’s dogs. Hopefully Kevin is right in noting that trapping is costly and the consuming so will continue to fade away…not soon enough for numerous predator species and their allies that are critical components of a healthy ecosystem.

  13. Kevin Burke says

    Two messed up replies so you all benefit from a shorter response!

    Phil – I don’t know anyone personally who traps or has shot a bobcat but a quick online search will reveal at least some who do eat them.

    Dave – your friends said what I said. The vast majority of animals shot are eaten so “hunting” also implys eating the animal unless stated otherwise, i.e. trophy hunting, management hunting. However, even the later qualifications only relate to the persons main purpose and don’t mean that the animal wasn’t eaten. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with “hunting for the sake of hunting.”

    Wren – every living thing experiences suffering, anxiety, etc. its a part of the natural world. No one can eliminate it, but only strive to minimize it. That is what many refer to as the Disney reality. All animals living together in a cozy little peaceful world. Even Deer have been documented by science as eating meat – specifically hatchling song birds.

    It all boils down to respect. Respect for the animal, respect for the environment, and respect for other people. Which the DEC refers to by their typical statements such as “Provide for sustainable use and enjoyment of bobcat by the public.”

  14. Dave says

    Kevin, you seem to be arguing the semantics of the word “hunting”.

    What it boils down is that I find ‘killing for the sake of killing’ to be wrong. And most hunters I know do too. When it is done under the pretense of “hunting”, such as is proposed in this plan, it is still… wrong.

    In any event, I would like to remind everyone that this is not policy yet. The DEC wants to hear from you about this proposal.

    Email them and let them know what you think: (use the subject line: Bobcat Plan)

  15. Rosemary Farr says

    No do not extend the hunting or trapping season. a citing of 300 plus bob cats is not enough reason to extend the hunting/ trapping season. they are beautiful animals and shoould be left alone.

  16. Matt says

    Yes let’s do it responsibly . I wonder when their small animals start to disappear if they will be so against the idea remember the coyote. I have friends who have lost pets live stock to coyote and people were against hunting them till their population exploded. I can understand people don’t want to kill them but you need to keep the numbers down to keep from doing what wild dogs have done to the farmers and family pets

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