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Wednesday, May 16, 2018 1:00 am

Panel opts against hunting of bobcats

Killing 'nuisance' animals also rejected by committee

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Natural Resources Commission on Tuesday dumped two controversial wildlife proposals, including one that would have allowed a bobcat hunting season.

The second would have required business operators that catch so-called nuisance animals – raccoons, coyotes and opossums – to euthanize the animals. Right now they are allowed to be caught and released.

The bobcat rule especially drew passionate opposition.

“As we all know, that is a rather sensitive topic to a number of people. We have heard from you. We appreciate the interest,” said Cameron Clark, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “We do feel as though we probably need to work more with our constituencies on sensitive rules like this.”

If the department proposes a bobcat hunting season in the future, Clark said it will go before an advisory council first.

Clark moved to withdraw the bobcat season as well as the euthanization language. Businesses with a nuisance animal control permit would be required to keep a record of the address where each animal is released.

Clark said the new requirement is to ensure against overcrowding, which can lead to starvation for animals in the wild. Many people who attended Tuesday's meetings had name tags with a bobcat on it and signs that said “Keep Indiana Wild.”

The bobcat population declined due to habitat change at the turn of the 20th century, and the animal was put on the endangered species list in 1969.

They were removed from that list in 2005 and now occupy 78 of Indiana's 92 counties.

Erin Huang, Indiana state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said “clearly the thousands of comments that came in made quite a difference.”

The commission held two public hearings that were attended by hundreds of Hoosiers.

There were 2,383 total comments, with a few petitions and letters signed by various organizations. Only 143 supported the bobcat rule compared with more than 1,300 against. Only 14 favored the nuisance rule with 543 against.

“These critters kind of just want to be out there and left alone,” Huang said.

The commission gave preliminary approval to the proposed rules last year. After the public response, an administrative law judge hearing the case recommended against moving forward.

She said there was not sufficient information and some unexpected consequences.