Victory: Public Opposition Leads to Withdrawal of Controversial Bobcat Proposal

State’s plan for bobcat hunting season lacks scientific justification and devalues native wildlife


Update – Fantastic news for bobcats!

The Indiana Natural Resources Commission voted today (May 15, 2018) to withdraw its controversial rule proposal to open a bobcat hunting season. 

In her formal report summarizing public comments, the Commission’s hearing officer Sandra Jensen had not recommended adoption of the bobcat rule.  Her report recognized the overwhelming public opposition to the bobcat rule, expressed in written comments and in comments at two public meetings, as well as the DNR’s failure to provide compelling justification for the rule.  Read the Hearing Officer’s report here.

Read the Indianapolis Star and Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette stories on the Natural Resources Commission action today.

Read HEC’s comments on the proposed bobcat rule.


The Indiana DNR is proposing to open a hunting and trapping season for bobcats. The proposal is part of a broader package of changes to the state’s administrative rules governing fish and wildlife management. Read more about the DNR’s fish and wildlife rules here.

The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a native mammal which was once on Indiana’s endangered species list. Thanks to this protection, the population recovered to the point that it was removed from the list, but the exact population number today has not been determined.

Bobcats are solitary animals and make dens among rocks or in caves. They are about twice the size of an average house cat. Bobcats prey on rabbits and other small animals, though have been known to prey on deer as well (Whitaker, Jr., Mammals of Indiana)

The DNR proposal
Here is the summary of DNR’s bobcat season proposal:

312 IAC 9-3-18.1: Bobcat Hunting & Trapping Season
Authorizes a bobcat hunting & trapping season. There would be a bag limit of one bobcat per person and a statewide quota, and the season would be open only in a restricted number of counties in Southern Indiana.

DNR’s reasons for opening a bobcat season include:
a) The population is growing based on an increase in the number of bobcats killed by motor vehicles and incidental trapping.
b) A trapping season would help supply the international trade in animal pelts.

Why the DNR’s justification is flawed and incomplete
The DNR has been tracking bobcat mortality since the 1980’s. The DNR also collects anecdotal surveys from hunters and others on their observations while outdoors. The number of road-killed bobcats increased from 2003 to 2010, but since then – other than a spike in 2015 –the number has gradually declined. This is valuable data but does not conclusively demonstrate the actual trend in the state’s bobcat population. Bobcat mortality by road-kill could be a result of many factors other than an increase in the bobcat population. For example, more reporting by the public, more traffic on existing roads or new roads being built in areas where bobcats live. For example, the highest density of bobcat mortality is in the southwest region of the state crossed by the new-terrain I-69 highway extension.

No definitive population estimate or count of bobcats in Indiana has been conducted. Nor has there been any information or research provided that the current population, even if increasing, is detrimental to bobcats generally, other species of wildlife, or the public. What’s more, a larger bobcat population has benefits that have not been considered in the bobcat rule proposal. Among the benefits are a greater likelihood that bobcats can be observed in the wild, and that thousands of people in Indiana plan trips to parks, wildlife refuges and other open lands to watch wildlife (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). A recent study in Yellowstone National Park found that the value of a wild bobcat – as observed and enjoyed by wildlife watchers – was over 1,000 times the value of a bobcat that was hunted and its pelt sold (Elbroch, Robertson, Combs and Fitzgerald).

Another basis for DNR’s proposal is to provide an opportunity to trappers to sell bobcat pelts for the international fur market. Commercialization of native wildlife is contrary to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, subscribed to by conservation organizations and U.S. and state fish and wildlife agencies including the Indiana DNR (Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies). Among the largest markets for bobcat pelts are China and Russia. Thus Indiana’s native wildlife would be killed to provide high-priced fashion apparel to consumers in Asia and Europe.

The DNR bobcat season proposal lacks:
1) Species management goals that fully consider the values and benefits of native bobcats
2) Accurate population information
3) An assessment of bobcat habitat availability and quality
4) Compatibility with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

For these reasons the Hoosier Environmental Council opposes the DNR’s bobcat season proposal.



Whitaker, Jr., John O., Mammals of Indiana, A Field Guide, Indiana University Press, 2010

2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Elbroch, L. Mark, Roberston, Lisa, Combs, Kristin, Fitzgerald, Jenny, Contrasting Bobcat Values, Biodiversity Conservation, July 5, 2017

North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies,, accessed March 2018