BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana wildlife officials have reduced quotas for bobcat hunting and trapping across a broad swath of central and northern Montana.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners on Thursday approved a proposal to lower the quota in three regions of the state by a combined 190 animals.
The move came after agency officials said they’d seen a drop in bobcat numbers in those areas. The decline is considered a cyclical population shift, but wildlife officials have said they don’t want to exacerbate the drop through hunting and trapping.
The bobcat quota was reduced from 200 to 100 in central and northern Montana’s Region 4. The quota in south-central Montana’s Region 5 has dropped from 250 to 200, and northeastern Montana’s Region 6 dropped from 90 to 50.
The state commission also approved bobcat trapping restrictions meant to protect the threatened lynx, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
The restrictions on trap size and the types of baits allowed will be imposed in designated lynx protection zones near Yellowstone National Park and in northwest Montana.
The new rules are part of a settlement on a 2013 suit filed against Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks by three environmental groups.
While the environmental groups hailed the commission’s action, the Montana Trappers Association disagreed with the new rules.
Toby Walrath, president of the Montana Trappers Association, said the association’s board of directors will decide soon what its next step will be. He couldn’t say exactly what would happen, but said legal action is an option.
“We are appropriately set up to move forward with litigation should we choose to,” Walrath said.
Lynx are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, so trapping them is illegal. Data collected by the environmental groups said 15 lynx have been inadvertently trapped since 2001. Five of those incidents were fatal.
Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com