DEC is developing a Management Plan for Bobcats in New York State, 2012-2017. The plan will guide the management of bobcat over the next five years and focuses on two objectives: 1) maintaining or enhancing bobcat populations in all areas of the state where suitable habitat exists; and 2) providing for the sustainable use and enjoyment of bobcats by the public.
Observations by hunters, trappers, hikers, farmers, trail camera users, and others who spend time outdoors clearly indicate that bobcat populations are increasing and expanding throughout New York State. From their historic core range in the Taconic, Catskill, and Adirondack mountains, bobcats now occur across the Southern Tier, where emigration from Pennsylvania has likely contributed to population growth as well.
While observation data help document the distribution of bobcats in New York, the elusive nature of bobcats precludes the use of traditional visual surveys to estimate their relative abundance. However, we can monitor bobcat populations by extrapolation from harvest data. Harvest totals in recent years via hunting and trapping have ranged from 400-500+ animals per year, with a clearly increasing trend from the late 1980s to the 2000s (see graph below). Under stable regulations, long-term trends in harvest generally reflect abundance of most furbearer species, with annual variation related to variables such as fuel costs, pelt prices and weather conditions.
When the plan is completed, we hope to improve our harvest and population monitoring capabilities. We will continue to monitor harvest totals via the mandatory pelt sealing program. However, annual variation in harvest data can often be misleading due to factors that influence total harvest, including pelt prices and trapper/hunter effort. To improve these data, DEC will develop diary log books that trappers and hunters can use to record their efforts while pursuing bobcats either as trap-nights or hunting effort (days or hours). This will enable us to calculate harvest as “take-per-unit-effort” (TPUE).
The new plan will provide a sound, scientific basis for the management of New York’s bobcat resource for the next five years and beyond. We will monitor harvest trends closely and we will ensure that harvest seasons are appropriate in terms of bobcat population status in any area. Going forward, our plan is to allow use of this resource on a long-term sustainable basis. This means that bobcat populations should continue to exist at or above their current levels throughout New York State, for the enjoyment of all.
Note: If any season changes are adopted, we will announce those by press release and updates to the DEC website.