TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - UPDATE: Governor Brown signs AB 1213 the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 into law .
The following story was produced before the bill was signed into law...
Hiking around his home near Joshua Tree National Park last January, Tom O'Key found something out of place.
"It was sort of a cage and I recognized it right away by its size that it was definitely a trap designed to catch bobcats," O'Key said.
He notified the sheriff who told him the trapper could place a trap there; it's legal and O'Key didn't post enough signs on his property.
"I'm the guy who's responsible for this land, I'm paying the taxes and I think that I should have the rights to control who and what comes and does what on my land," O'Key said.
The spot where O'Key found the bobcat trap was just a few hundred feet from a gate marked "no trespassing."
But under the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 this would be illegal. In order to trap bobcats on any private land, trappers would need the express written consent of the owner of the property.
"I felt the trappers are carrying forward something that traditionally may have some validity, but the idea that nature would be exploited bothers me tremendously."
The price for a bobcat pelt skyrocketed in recent years, from about $80 in 2009 to several hundred dollars in 2012.
We spoke with a trapper via e-mail who gave us this statement:
"If people would think of trapping as akin to commercial fishing I think it is a decent comparison, not perfect, but close. Trappers do not want to decimate a population, we want to have a sustainable harvest."
The California Department of Finance joined trappers to oppose the bill for reasons that include the following:
- The bill is unnecessary because it presents no imminent threat to California's bobcat population
- No-trapping buffers would be difficult to enforce
- Fees for trapping licenses would need to more than triple to recover the costs associated with this bill
While O'Key understands the opposition, he feels the law would present a fair compromise.
"It hasn't ended trapping, the season is still going to happen. This is just going to control it in a more sensible way," O'Key said.
If signed into law, the bobcat bill would establish no-trapping zones around Joshua Tree National Park beginning January 1, 2014.