570 Bobcat Permits to be Offered

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In keeping with a harvest objective of 175 bobcats, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Vern Ross today announced the agency will award 570 permits for the 2003-2004 bobcat hunting/furtaking seasons at a public drawing in its Harrisburg headquarters on Friday, Sept. 12.

"Based on the harvest success rate of the 2002-2003 season and our survey of unsuccessful bobcat permit holders, we plan to conservatively increase the number of permits allocated in order to move closer to our harvest objective of 175 bobcats," Ross said.

Last year, the Game Commission awarded 545 permits from an applicant pool of 3,114. In 2001-2002, the agency allotted 520 permits from an applicant pool of more than 3,100. In 2000-2001, the first bobcat season in 30 years, the agency awarded 290 permits from an applicant pool of 3,276.

Last year, 135 bobcats from 19 counties within Furbearer Management Units 2 and 3 were taken by hunters and trappers. County harvest numbers were: Bradford, 12; Cameron, 7; Centre, 3; Clearfield, 13; Clinton, 12; Columbia, 1; Elk, 10; Forest, 4; Luzerne, 4; Lycoming, 6; McKean, 4; Monroe, 1; Pike, 3; Potter, 10; Sullivan, 12; Susquehanna, 2; Tioga, 20, Wayne, 1; and Wyoming, 10.

During the 2000-2001 season, 58 bobcats were harvested throughout Furbearer Management Zones 2 and 3, and 146 bobcats were taken in 2001-2002 in the same zones.

According Game Commission bobcat biologist Dr. Matthew Lovallo, poor weather conditions - excessive precipitation and early freezing - during this past season resulted in a significant number of permit recipients not attempting to harvest a bobcat during the 2002-2003 season. A comprehensive report of last season will be compiled once the remainder of the surveys of unsuccessful permit holders are received.

Lovallo noted agency staff usually meets with every successful bobcat hunter and trapper within four days of the reported harvest to examine the bobcat and to collect biological samples. If the permit holder indicated that the bobcat was going to be mounted, the agency contacted taxidermists to arrange for pelt sealing and carcass collection.

Upon examination, bobcat carcasses are sexed, weighed, measured (total length and chest girth), and a canine tooth collected from the lower jaw. Teeth from adult bobcats have been shipped to Matson's Laboratories for age determination. This information will be provided to successful hunters and trappers during the winter of 2003.

In addition, stomachs were collected and frozen for diet analyses that will be conducted at Colgate University. A kidney and surrounding abdominal fat were collected to assess the condition of harvested bobcats and reproductive tracts were collected from all females to measure pregnancy rates and to estimate litter size.

The Game Commission has continued, and in some areas intensified, efforts to monitor changes in Pennsylvania's bobcat population. During 2002, agency Wildlife Conservation Officers reported more than 107 bobcat roadkills, and trappers without harvest permits reported releasing an estimated 700 bobcats.

On July 1, the Game Commission will begin accepting applications for the 2003-2004 bobcat permits from holders of resident furtaker, junior combination or senior lifetime combination licenses, along with a nonrefundable $5 fee. Mail-in applications are included the 2003-2004 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, which will be provided to each license buyer. All mail-in applications must be postmarked no later than Aug. 15.

Also on July 1, to better serve its customers, the agency will begin accepting applications for the 570 bobcat permits through "The Outdoor Shop" on the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Applicants may charge their hunting/furtaking licenses, as well as a bobcat application, to their VISA, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit cards. Online applications will be accepted until midnight of Aug. 15.

New for this year, the Board of Game Commissioners approved the creation of a preference system for individuals who apply for a bobcat permit beginning with 2003-2004. Beginning with the applications submitted for this year's drawing, individuals who are not awarded a permit in 2003 will be granted preference in future drawings. However, only one application per person will be accepted, and multiple submissions will result in the applicant being ineligible for the drawing.

Those who received one of the 545 bobcat permits issued during the 2002-2003 season are not eligible for this year's drawing. However, those who received one of the 520 permits issued in 2001-2002 or one of the 290 bobcat permits issued during the 2000-2001 season are eligible to apply for this year's drawing.

Each permit holder is entitled to take one bobcat during the seasons.

The hunting season for bobcats is set for Oct. 18 through Feb. 21, and the trapping season is set for Oct. 19 through Feb. 21. Those hunters or trappers receiving one of the limited permits through a public drawing will be restricted to pursuing bobcats in Wildlife Management Units 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D in northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania. These are roughly the same areas as the previously used furbearer management units that were used for the first three seasons.

To demonstrate its confidence in the Game Commission's bobcat management plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently granted the agency "multi-year" export status for bobcat pelts legally harvested in Pennsylvania.