Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Underwriter Message

Indiana lawmakers ask for bobcat hunting, trapping season once again

A bobcat that caught a rabbit at Montana de Oro State Park in California.
Linda Tanner
/
Wikimedia Commons
The bill's author, hunters, and trappers say bobcats – like this one photographed in California – are reducing populations of small game like rabbits in Indiana.

A state Senate bill, SB 241, would establish a hunting and trapping season for bobcats in Indiana by July of next year. This isn’t the first time lawmakers have tried to make taking bobcats legal — and it’s still a divisive topic in Indiana.

Bobcats were taken off the Indiana endangered species list in 2005. Now, the bill's author, Sen. Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville) said they could be growing out of control — they’re devastating squirrel, rabbit and turkey populations on land he owns in southern Indiana.

“It feels as though they’re getting to the point we’re seeing other animals in the ecosystem starting to decline. There’s anecdotal evidence, we’re seeing it on our trail cams," he said.

READ MORE: Opponents of bobcat hunting, controversial proposals call for more information

Baldwin said, with the exception of Ohio, most of Indiana’s surrounding states have limited bobcat hunting seasons. Under the bill, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources would be responsible for deciding factors like when the season would take place and how many permits would be issued.

But the Humane Society of the United States questions whether the state has enough data on bobcat numbers to support a sustainable hunting season.

Erin Huang is the Humane Society's senior specialist for state affairs. She said the Indiana Natural Resources Commission took up the issue in 2018 and more than a thousand Hoosiers were opposed.

“Not only did we find out that it was — that there was no basis, scientifically, to allow for the bobcat hunting. But it was wildly unpopular," she said.

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 765-275-1120. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues, including our project Civically, Indiana and our 2024 legislative bill tracker.

The NRC removed the proposal for a bobcat hunting season at its meeting in May 2018.

"We have heard from you. We appreciate the interest, we always appreciate people getting involved in this process. What we do feel as though we probably need to work more with our constituencies on sensitive rules like this," said then director of the DNR, Cameron Clark, according to the meeting minutes.

Limited data from the DNR shows the number of roadkill bobcats increased dramatically since the late 90s and early 2000s, which hunters and trappers say suggests their populations could sustain a hunting season. Though it's difficult to say whether the increase could be due to other factors, like more traffic in bobcat habitats.

In July, a resident of Evansville filed a citizens petition asking the NRC to look into a bobcat hunting and trapping season in Indiana. The DNR is still reviewing the petition.

The bill passed committee and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Tags
Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.