Bobcat numbers drop in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; state shortens hunting season

By Jordan Travis
Great Lakes Echo
Oct. 4, 2009

LANSING – The bobcat hunting and trapping season in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will start three months later because of an apparent drop in the bobcat population.

Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The UP season will be shortened from four months and a week to two months. The start date for the trapping season, originally Oct. 25, is now Dec. 1, and the hunting season now begins on New Year’s Day.

The Department of Natural Resources opted to shorten the season rather than reduce the bag limit from two to one bobcat, a move that some conservation and hunter advocacy organizations recommended.

Hunters and trappers still have a choice of where they can take their season limit. Both cats can be taken in the UP except for Drummond Island, or one cat can be taken from each peninsula.

Adam Bump, a DNR specialist on furbearing animals, said that the decision was a compromise between meeting the needs of hunters and preserving the bobcat population.

In 2007, Michigan hunters and trappers reported killing 660 bobcats.

Hunting associations and biologists within the department had expressed concern about a decline in bobcat numbers.

Bump said the DNR is still trying to determine the causes of the decline, citing habitat loss as one possibility.

Amy Spray, a resource policy specialist with Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said that the change in season length came amidst a disagreement between hunters and trappers. Trappers must set multiple traps to catch a single bobcat so a smaller limit greatly increases the chance that a trapper will kill an extra bobcat over the course of the season, she said.

“We support sound scientific management,” which means finding a balance between recreational opportunity and population management, Spray added. Her organization will watch to see how a shortened season affects bobcat hunters and trappers, she said.

In the Lower Peninsula, the season will remain unchanged.

Patrick Rusz, director of wildlife programs for the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy in Bath, said bobcats have a wide range and a diet that doesn’t depend on any one animal. Because they do not need large, unbroken areas of habitat, they aren’t as sensitive to habitat loss as other wildlife, he said.

“The bobcat has been doing pretty well and extending its range” within the state, Rusz said. He added that it isn’t unusual to see one considerably further south than they were once believed to venture.

Bobcats are members of the lynx family of felines and are found throughout most of the continental U.S., Mexico and parts of Canada. They feed on small mammals, especially rabbits. They average 15 to 30 pounds, 30 to 40 inches in length and 20 inches in height at the shoulders.

Jordan Travis reports for Capital News Service

  • james

    I Have been in the upper penninsula for 1 week now. I do a lot of hiking, but I have already seen 2 bobcats! I have also found a lot of deer kills. Probably by wolves or coyotes, I cant believe they are –so hungry during the winter that they actually eat the hide. That is completly the opposite compared to southern michigan. Animals are very hungry in the u.p., but like I said- two bobcats, one week, not bad.

  • Donna

    We were just up in the U.P. and we canoed the 2 Hearted River (5 1/2 hours) and visited Seney Wildlife Refuge….we are avid birders…we were SHOCKED at how LITTLE wildlife or birds we saw. Not ONE turtle or frog and ONE LOON…a smattering of songbirds…but where were the DUCKS???? We are worried!

  • http://www.michigan.sierraclub.org Anne Woiwode

    The loss of habitat is always bad, and if that is the cause of decline that is of great concern. But my understanding is that bobcats were not plentiful in the UP originally — in fact, their presence may be responsible for difficulty in bringing back the Lynx, which thrived in the deep snow and dense woods of the UP. Bobcat are more aggressive, and they push Lynx out. In addition, the increased access through the woods on snowmobile and cleared is part of the problem — Lynx have large, soft paws that allows them to walk in deep snow — bobcats have extended their range because they can follow cleared trails. It would worth it to find out more about the impact on the Lynx from US fish and Wildlife Service or US Forest Service, which in the UP has sought to restore habitat for Lynx recovery.