Tonawanda News — For as long as I can remember, the Southern Tier has been like a second home for me. I’ve spent many a weekend camping, hiking and hunting the forests of Allegany County.
Despite all of that time spent outdoors, in what is prime bobcat habitat, I’ve been lucky enough to see the wild felines only twice in my life. One of the sightings was a fleeting moment, just catching a glimpse of the cat as he ran off. The other was an awe-inspiring 10 minute show — I will always remember the sight of that magnificent creature sauntering through a rocky hillside in search of its prey.
Most people I know who frequent the Allegheny foothills – residents and hunters alike – haven’t been so fortunate. I can count on one hand the number of them who have seen the cats. In comparison, most of them have seen black bears.
Granted, bobcats are shy creatures, but if they were common, wouldn’t I have been privy to more sightings? Wouldn’t my fellow outdoorsmen have seen evidence of their existence, from tracks to scat?
That is why I find it odd that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed rules that will open up more bobcat hunting and trapping. Once confined to the Adirondacks and the Catskills, the DEC would like to expand the harvest to the Southern Tier, in all counties along the Pennsylvania border.
This proposal was based on an alleged explosion in New York’s bobcat population. The total population within the Empire State is now estimated to be 5,000 cats. 5,000. That’s an awfully small number, one that certainly doesn’t warrant greater hunting privileges.
When compared to other game animals, bobcats are undeniably rare. The population of our most popular target, the white-tailed deer, exceeds 1 million in New York. Wild turkeys number 250,000. Black bears are modestly more abundant than bobcats at 8,000 statewide.