Call To Action for Indiana Bobcats

Indiana citizens who went to great lengths to submit comments and attend public hearings to vocalize opposition to IDNR’s rule package (#17-436), rightfully feel betrayed by the latest news of IDNR’s upcoming workshop and recent meeting with hunters and trappers apparently meant to garner support for the implementation of a bobcat hunting and trapping season. This, despite the Department’s recent public announcement that the agency would not adopt a bobcat season.

bobcat photo.jpg

Some proponents of a bobcat season contend these animals are abundant and allegedly causing problems with domestic animals and other “nuisance” complaints. As evidenced by IDNR’s own “Proposed Limited Bobcat Harvest Season FAQs” these claims are unsubstantiated.

Not surprisingly, this information was recently removed from the agency’s webpage shortly following CWE’s blog post criticizing the agency’s rule package. Among the information that IDNR has taken offline is the following:

“We get very few reports of bobcats being a nuisance or causing damage. The proposal to have a limited season is not because of complaints or conflicts with bobcats…”

(IDNR’s FAQ page was removed from its website, but you can view it in its entirety here.)

Contrived bobcat conflicts fail to justify any need for a hunting and trapping season as any allegedly "problematic" bobcats can legally be managed under the authority of a “nuisance wild animal control permit” (312 IAC 9-3-18.1(a)).

Here’s how you can help Indiana Bobcats:

·        Write to Governor Eric Holcomb at:

Office of the Governor

Statehouse

Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797

Or contact Governor Holcomb via webform at: https://www.in.gov/gov/2752.htm

·        And/or contact Governor Holcomb's press secretary Rachel Hoffmeyer, 317-914-5634, rhoffmeyer@gov.in.gov to raise awareness about the IDNR's recent actions.

·        Urge the Governor to instruct IDNR’s Director, Cameron Clark, to honor the spirit of the agency’s act in May 2018 when the bobcat hunting and trapping provisions were withdrawn from the rule package. Request that IDNR cease and desist all activity that directly or indirectly serves to advance the implementation of a bobcat hunting or trapping season.

·        Be sure to maintain copies of all correspondence with Governor Holcomb or his Press Secretary for future reference.

Indiana NRC Pushes Commercial Trapping on State Park Lands

Time is running out to submit public comments on the rule package proposed by the Indiana Natural Resources Commission (NRC). The Center for Wildlife Ethics (CWE) has already warned about the NRC’s proposed and misguided bobcat season and the agency’s intent to mandate wild animal control operators to kill every raccoon, opossum, and coyote they encounter.

If you haven’t already joined CWE in opposition to NRC’s rule proposals, please consider speaking out against the NRC’s reckless plan to open State Park Lands for commercial fur trapping.  

raccoon blog pic.jpg

Current law rightfully prohibits hunting and trapping on State Park Lands (312 IAC 9-2-11). State Park properties are for the enjoyment of everyone and should not be used for violent pursuits that make the land less safe for park patrons or the parks’ wild inhabitants. Yet the NRC has proposed a rule change that betrays the public’s trust and turns the prohibition on its head by allowing numerous species to be trapped by private individuals as well as park employees.

NRC’s justification for this rule provision lacks any legitimacy.

IDNR employee’s already have the ability to manage “nuisance” animal concerns. (CWE’s members are already aware that this agency has launched a conflation campaign to disguise all trapping violence as “nuisance” animal control.)

The language of the rule purports to limit trapping to situations where an animal is “causing damage or threatening to cause damage or creating a public safety or health threat.” However, nothing in the rule requires substantial evidence of any “nuisance,” damage, or alleged health or safety threat. Trappers are not required to explore and exhaust nonlethal alternatives.

The rule’s conditions for trapping are too vague and open-ended to act as an effective or enforceable limitation. Permission to kill an animal that is “threatening to cause damage” will inevitably be interpreted as permission to trap any animal that is present in the park.

This rule provides ample monetary incentive for IDNR employees to contrive nonexistent nuisance or threat in order to create the conditions to justify commercial fur trapping.

The NRC doesn’t even bother pretending that opening public lands to trapping activities isn’t about commercial gain. If it were true that the agency was motivated by “nuisance” concerns, it would adhere to the current legal standard that prohibits trappers from selling, bartering, gifting, or trading the furs of “nuisance” animals they kill. The proposed rule includes no such prohibition, so trappers are absolutely free to trap for profit on public property.  

This proposed rule is ripe for nepotism and civil service abuses. IDNR—the agency tasked with serving as stewards and premises custodians of public lands and wildlife—cannot  simultaneously protect state properties and wild animals while profiteering as well. The ability to trap animals on public land and sell their furs for profit should not be a job perk for IDNR employees, nor should State Park Property Managers be able to do favors for their friends by extending them permission to trap on park properties.

conbear+220.jpg

The NRC/IDNR lacks the necessary statutory authority to permit commercial fur trappers to maintain lethal traps on state park and historic site properties and sell the pelts from animals killed. A rule revision cannot remedy this legal reality.

CWE is currently litigating the illegality of trapping on public lands in the Indiana Court of Appeals. CWE has also filed a lawsuit against the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, the agency tasked in Governor Pence’s 2013 Executive Order to approve all proposed rule-making packages.

Once again, please take a moment to submit a public comment opposing the use of our State Parks and other public properties for fur trapping. Comments on NRC’s rule package must be submitted by March 23, 2018.

INDIANA RULE PROPOSAL PROHIBITS LIVE RELEASE OF WILDLIFE SPECIES; REQUIRES KILLING

Scenarios like the following arise frequently, especially in the spring months. Imagine you are the property owner faced with this dilemma: 


raaccoonatticguide.com

raaccoonatticguide.com

You knew there was a spot near the roof in need of repair and you should have sealed it up before winter, but you procrastinated. It was just a matter of time before a mother raccoon decided your attic would serve as a suitable den site to raise her young. You can now hear the raccoon family stirring around upstairs. You’ve never had a problem sharing your neighborhood with the local wildlife, but you know wild animals shouldn’t be in your attic.

 What do you do about this unwanted intrusion? Chances are you search Google for “wildlife removal” or some similar search term and obtain the phone numbers of local trappers, known as Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCOs). So you choose a NWCO who comes to your house, offers to trap the whole family of raccoons, and informs you that he accepts cash or check. Upon further inquiry about his trapping methods, you learn that he intends to kill them by blunt force. You immediately recoil at the thought of this mother and her babies dying for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This cruelty hits you especially hard because you know it was your failure to repair the roof that caused all of this. What do you do?


Since you are reading the Center for Wildlife Ethics blog, it’s a safe bet you’ll attempt to hire another NWCO, one who is willing to use non-lethal alternatives for managing wildlife intrusions.

But if the Indiana Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has its way, making the sensible choice and hiring a service that prioritizes animal welfare and implements non-violent, permanent solutions to common wildlife problems will no longer be a legally permitted option.

The NRC is currently accepting public comments to its proposed rule package that imposes a mandatory kill requirement on all NWCOs who address raccoon, opossum, and coyote conflicts (312 IAC 9-10-11).

The NRC claims a mandatory kill provision is justified because raccoons and opossums can “become a nuisance when they get into attics and other buildings.”

Notably though, killing all trespassing wildlife does nothing to repair an access point in an attic or minimize the desirability of other unnatural wildlife attractants.

National Geographic

National Geographic

Vilifying these wild animals as nuisances and sentencing them to death for their mere presence on one’s property is punitive. It ignores the underlying problem, what served to attract the animal to the location to begin with. While the NWCO may drive off to the next job with a truck full of raccoon pelts, he leaves behind the open trash can, missing vent cover, structural disrepair, or other unnatural wildlife attractant that not only instigated the initial conflict, but will inevitably interest yet another unfortunate animals.

Mandatory kill provisions perpetuate a cycle of violence that is already rampant in Indiana. As the NRC openly admits, trappers “are already euthanizing the majority of these animals.” (It should be noted that killing healthy animals for human convenience is not “euthanasia,” but that’s another discussion).

NRC’s proposed rule furthers the political and economic agenda of unscrupulous NWCOs and their trade associations, who typically have little interest in exploring non-lethal solutions and rely on reoccurring wildlife conflicts to help keep them in business and boost profits.

This irresponsible rule normalizes brutal practices and sanitizes the industry’s pro-killing agenda in the minds of the public. When faced with a concerned and compassionate customer, NWCOs could claim, “We have no choice in the matter. State law requires us to kill these animals.”

The NRC’s proposed rule change is so punitive it not only prohibits the relocation of these species but also prohibits releasing raccoons, opossums, and coyotes on-site and within the animal’s own established territories.

The NRC supports its morally bankrupt position by contending that raccoon and coyote populations are high. Yet the agency has no similar justification for another section in the rule package (312 IAC 9-10-4) that encourages/enables private individuals to breed these same species in captivity.

Pinterest

Pinterest

Surely, if there are so many raccoons, opossums and coyotes that the state must require NWCOs to kill every single one they trap, it would be hypocritical for NRC to allow individuals to profit commercially by breeding more of these same allegedly overpopulated animals.

Obviously, the Center for Wildlife Ethics staunchly opposes NRC’s mandatory kill provision (and this outrageous rule package in its entirety). NWCOs and/or property owners must have the legal right to contract for and implement non-violent solutions to common wildlife problems. Greed and political expedience cannot trump this legal reality, nor should it take priority over decency and common sense.

Please join CWE in opposition to the NRC’s rule package. Take a moment to submit a personalized comment here to defend Indiana’s wildlife. The public comment period closes at the end of day on March 23, 2018.

Proposed Bobcat Season in Indiana: A Ploy by IDNR to Boost Interest in Hunting?

Bobcat-lynnhavenvillage.org.jpg

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is currently accepting public comments to a lengthy and convoluted rule package. Although CWE is working to oppose this rule package in its entirety, our members are particularly concerned about one new and troubling issue, specifically, the agency’s push for bobcat hunting and trapping.

IDNR recently released an FAQ sheet to support a bobcat season in Indiana. While IDNR’s publications typically consist of no more than agency propaganda, its responses to these FAQs actually demonstrate many of the reasons a bobcat season is an ill-advised, unnecessary and an unscientific idea.

For instance, IDNR has no idea which parts of the state “support strong, self-sustaining bobcat populations.” At the very least, an agency should have a firm handle on such analysis prior to proposing a bobcat season.

IDNR stresses that it will closely monitor and record the killing of bobcats, yet the same regulatory package that reintroduces hunting and trapping of these animals also proposes relaxing the reporting obligations for fur buyers. The agency also touts “strict limits” on bobcat killing, yet proposes no penalty provision to discourage wrongdoing.

Photo:  Great Cats of the World

Photo: Great Cats of the World

IDNR’s FAQ contends that “Trapping is highly regulated and strictly enforced by Indiana Conservation Officers”. While trapping proponents frequently repeat this claim, it is a falsehood. Wildlife trapping regulations are notoriously weak, extremely difficult to enforce, and depend almost exclusively on self-reporting by the trappers. Trappers scatter their hidden traps across the vast lands they trap on. Since there is no requirement for trappers to disclose trap locations, there is virtually no way for Conservation officers to detect violations. Additionally, IDNR’s Law Enforcement Division employs 214 Conservation officers, or just one Conservation Officer for every 170 square miles.

IDNR readily admits that the proposed season on bobcats is not due to nuisance or damage (livestock predation, etc.) complaints -- two primary “offenses” that quickly land any predator species on a wildlife agency’s hit list.

The proposed season will only benefit hunters or trappers who intend to sell or keep bobcat skins. According to the proposal, bobcat carcasses cannot be eaten and must be relinquished to the agency. Consequently, IDNR cannot sanitize the killing by creating one of its contrived “hunters for the hungry” programs – a favorite marketing tool used to disguise violence as altruism.

So given that bobcats are not in conflict with humans and that IDNR has no legitimate reason to open season on the species, why is IDNR targeting bobcats?

One explanation is that wildlife agencies including IDNR are desperate to salvage hunting as a recreational pastime.  

Photo: Outdoor Life

Photo: Outdoor Life

The popularity of hunting in the U.S. peaked in 1982 and has been in steady decline ever since. According to figures published by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, less than 4% of the population hunts today and the recent drop has been a sharp one. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of hunters nationwide dropped by 2.2 million people.

Simple demographics are one reason for this decline. So-called baby boomers, the generation aged 54 to 72, make up the largest segment of hunters and they are simply “aging out” of these deadly activities. Wildlife agencies have made attempts to reverse this trend, but reduced licensing fees and increased killing opportunities are not enough to entice older hunters. Furthermore, the average hunter fits a distinct profile: rural, white (>90%), and male (>70%). Meanwhile, the U.S. population is trending in the other direction: becoming more urban and diverse.

Desperate to save their primary source of revenue and relevance, wildlife agencies and the hunting industry have poured considerable resources and effort into “R3” initiatives: recruit new hunters; retain current hunters; and reactivate former hunters. In spite of these desperate efforts, R3 has largely failed. The group gaining the most access to the benefits of R3 efforts is routinely the children of hunters – the same kids most likely to take up hunting even without R3.  

Indiana has led the way in the failure of R3, losing more hunters than any other state between 1960 and 2016: approximately 340,000 or roughly the entire populations of Fort Wayne and Bloomington, IN combined!

So how does this relate to bobcats?

Bobcat-burkemuseum.org.jpg

Wildlife agencies will attempt to engage disinterested hunters and recruit new hunters by offering uncommon killing experiences, including the exploitation of previously protected species. The bobcats who will suffer under IDNR’s proposal are just the latest pawns used to resuscitate an antiquated activity that finds itself on life support in the 21st century. The agency’s commercialization of this species is particularly egregious since it literally sacrifices the lives of bobcats merely to boost waning interest in hunting and trapping.

If you would like to submit a public comment on behalf of Indiana’s bobcats, you may do so here. The public comment period closes on March 23, 2018. Please also consider attending two public meetings which will be held in Indiana in March to vocalize your opposition to the rule.