HARRISBURG – Although trapping and hunting seasons are now underway for some species in Pennsylvania, it is the opportunity to take a bobcat without the need to apply for a special permit that has both trappers and hunters anticipating this year's separate seasons.
This regulation was approved last year by the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of game commissioners and was based on a report submitted by the study by the agency's Game Mammal Section, headed by biologist Matt Lovallo. According to the results of the research done by the GMS, the bobcat population could be controlled by eliminating the random public drawing for a limited number of bobcat permits in exchange for a shortened season in designated Wildlife Management Units.
Based upon last year's success, the PGC board voted at its quarterly meeting in April to set seasons and bag limits to hold a bobcat trapping season, December 17 through January 8, and a hunting season, January 17 through February 7. Both seasons, however, will be open only in WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4D and 4E.
In addition, for the second consecutive year the PGC board again approved a limited, one-week trapping season for fishers, which is part of the agency's initial plans when it reintroduced fishers in the 1990s. This season, which will be held December 17-22 in WMUs 2C, 2D, 2E and 2F, is consistent with its goal of promoting and providing hunting and trapping opportunities.
Resident and nonresident furtaker license and junior and senior combination license holders are eligible to participate in both the bobcat and fisher seasons. Bobcat and fisher permits will be available through the agency's license sale system for $6.70 each and include carcass tags.
Anyone who takes a bobcat or fisher must report it to the PGC within 48 hours using the online reporting system, which can be accessed through the agency's website at www.pgc.state.pa.us; the toll-free telephone reporting system by calling 1-888-724-8681; or by calling a Region office, which are listed on Page 5 of the "2011-12 Hunting and Trapping Digest," which is provided with each license.
This year's cable restraint trapping season for foxes and coyotes is December 26 through February 19, and licensed trappers must complete either a four-hour cable restraint certification course or Successful Furtaking Course provided by agency-certified volunteer instructors. Another special regulation this year was the PGC board's approval of a change to require trappers to "dog-proof" cubby sets that contain body-gripping traps.
Trappers using baited cubby sets within a watercourse should consult the digest to make sure their sets conform to these new regulations. In addition, the board also created regulations to allow for the use of encapsulated trap designs that are very selective for harvesting raccoons.
Currently, the general trapping season for coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks and weasels is open February 19. Trapping season for mink and muskrats is November 19 through January 8, and the season for beavers is December 26 through March 31.
Raccoon hunting season is open through February 18, and the hunting season for skunks, opossums and weasels is open throughout the July 1 to June 30 license year except for Sundays. Red and gray foxes hunting season is open through February 18 including Sundays. Coyote hunting is also open throughout the license year – including Sundays.
According to Game-Take and Furtaker Surveys, the estimated take by species for 2010, with 2009 total in parentheses are: 125,423 raccoons (112,550 in 2009); 58,296 muskrats (63,998); 54,661 red foxes (37,418); 36,188 opossums (37,270); 26,658 coyotes (30,386); 15,691 gray foxes (13,793); 8,935 skunks (8,314); and 8,204 mink (7,261).
PGC personnel expect furtakers to see abundant raccoon, red fox, coyote and mink populations afield. Increased muskrat pelt prices resulted in greater muskrat trapper effort over the past few years, and the decreasing muskrat harvest trend should begin to stabilize this season.
High water levels may have helped muskrats access better habitat in ditches, small streams and ponds in agricultural areas. Also, the gray fox harvest is expected to stabilize or increase this trapping season.
Trappers do not have to have beavers tagged by PGC personnel. There are, however, the following beaver bag limits for each WMU: 40 per season in WMUs 1A, 1B, 3A and 3C; 20 per season in WMUs 2A, 2B, 2D, 2E 2F, 3B, 3D; and five per season in all other WMUs.
Beaver populations increased in many areas partially because of difficult trapping conditions last year. Last year, an estimated 9,254 beavers were taken, compared to 9,704 in 2009, and an increase in the harvest is expected this season.