| For Immediate Release – January 16, 2006
Contact: Michael Robinson (505) 534-0360
The Center for Biological Diversity filed comments with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in opposition to removing the Mexican bobcat from the list of endangered species, a course sought by the National Trappers Association.
Since 1903, Lynx rufus escuinapae has been acknowledged as the southernmost subspecies of the more widely distributed bobcat. Limited to a portion of central and southern Mexico, the Mexican bobcat is imperiled by habitat destruction and illegal trapping and shooting. It has been listed as an endangered species since 1976.
In 1989, almost 1,000 illegally transported bobcat furs from Mexico were confiscated by the Fish and Wildlife Service, but many more may be imported undetected. Now, in response to the trappers’ petition, the Bush administration has proposed delisting the Mexican bobcat. (See Federal Register, November 23, 2005, Vol. 70, 225, pp. 70779-70780.)
According to Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, there is no biological justification for delisting the Mexican bobcat. The Center submitted an initial set of comments on the proposal in 2003, which helped delay removal of protections, and again at the end of 2005. (Contact Robinson for copies of the Center’s comments.) The Center is now preparing for possible litigation to ensure that the Mexican bobcat will not be legally trapped into extinction.
Mexican bobcats are distinguished taxonomically in part by their short and coarse hair which the scientist who identified the subspecies described as “immensely different from the long, soft, silky coat” of the next nearest subspecies. Their original range included the entirety of the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Nayarit, and portions of the states of Sonora, Jalisco, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo, Morelos, Puebla, Mexico, Tiaxcala, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Guerrero, Veracruz, and Oaxaca. But an indeterminate extent of that range is no longer occupied by bobcats. They do not occur in the United States, and most of the habitats they evolved in – including vast regions of Sinaloan thornscrub and Sinaloan deciduous forest – differ significantly from those in which other bobcats in North America live.
That different habitat is likely to influence prey selection. Mexican bobcats also occupy overlapping ranges with ocelots and jaguarundis, which are not found in the ranges of northern subspecies. This likely influences spatial, temporal and other behavioral attributes of all three species, but unfortunately no research has been conducted on the interactions of these three similarly-sized carnivores.
The Mexican bobcat’s differences from other bobcats are likely to grow in the future because of increasing development of the U.S.-Mexico border with infrastructure such as roads, motorized patrols, lights and fences that will likely reduce movement and interaction between bobcats on either side of the border, pushing each group further apart genetically. Plans by the Bush administration to fence off much of the border threaten the future viability of the bobcat population in Mexico, exacerbating threats from habitat loss and human persecution. (Such a wall similarly imperils a multitude of other wildlife, including endangered jaguars that are beginning a comeback in Arizona and New Mexico.)
“The little-understood Mexican bobcat needs additional research into its status and survival strategies, and U.S. assistance to Mexican authorities to aid its conservation,” said Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Instead, our government proposes to remove protections and allow import of Mexican bobcat pelts. This would unleash unlimited trapping of this unique and beautiful animal.”
Robinson added, “The National Trappers Association and the Bush administration won’t do this without a heck of a fight.”