FORTUNA — A movement against bobcat trapping that began in Joshua Tree claimed success Wednesday when a state commission banned all trapping of the cats in California.

The 3-2 vote from the California Fish & Game Commission went against recommendations for a partial ban in certain areas, suggested by the commission’s own staff and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Instead, the panel approved a statewide prohibition on trapping and killing bobcats.

The new rule makes exceptions for trapping animals that are nuisances or causing property damage.

The Office of Administrative Law must approve the ban before it is enacted.

The commission received more than 25,000 emails, letters and petitions supporting the complete ban, according to the meeting agenda.

“Banning the cruel and unnecessary trapping of bobcats for the international fur trade is widely supported by the public and this vote shows California’s continued leadership in protecting wildlife,” Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote, said in a news release after the vote.

A group of supporters, including several from Joshua Tree, gathered outside the meeting of the Fish & Game Commission, holding signs and photographs of bobcats. One showed side-by-side pictures of a California bobcat and Cecil, a lion killed by an American hunter in Zimbabwe July 1, prompting international outrage.

The ban was opposed by 23 senators, including Republican Senator Jean Fuller, whose district includes the Morongo Basin. She and her colleagues asked the commission to hold off on adopting new regulations until the Department of Fish and Game could find funding and undertake a population survey of bobcats in California.

The California Trappers Association also opposed both the partial and the complete ban. In letters to the commission, Director Mercer Lawling wrote that the Department of Fish & Game did not offer enough workshops in areas where trappers live, resulting in a disproportionately high level of input from trapping opponents. He also said the ban could lead to an overpopulation of bobcats and dwindling numbers of prey animals like quail and rabbits.

Wednesday’s action is the most drastic way the commission could follow the dictates of the Bobcat Protection Act, a bill passed by the Legislature in 2013 at least in part because of lobbying from Hi-Desert residents.

The act banned trapping in zones around national parks, preserves and refuges. It called for the Fish & Game Commission to amend its regulations to prohibit bobcat trapping around national and state parks, monuments and wildlife refuges. But the law also stated it did not limit the commission’s ability to impose stricter prohibitions, including a complete ban.

The Department of Fish and Game and the commission’s staff advised instead allowing trapping in several areas, including San Bernardino County.

Project Bobcat began in Joshua Tree

Project Bobcat, the movement that led to the Bobcat Protection Act and the new ban, began in January 2013 when Tom O’Key, of Joshua Tree, found a bobcat cage on his private property bordering Joshua Tree National Park. O’Key took the trap, leaving a note for the trapper so he could reclaim it, and contacted the Hi-Desert Star.

The trap’s owner, who told the Hi-Desert Star he mistook O’Key’s land for public property, said he was a licensed trapper who sold the pelts.

In the months after finding the trap, O’Key galvanized people in the Morongo Basin and beyond to take up his cause against the legal trapping and killing of bobcats.

They got the attention of Assemblyman Richard Bloom, of Santa Monica, who introduced the Bobcat Protection Act that was eventually signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

(23) comments


The Marine Trapper trapped and killed four dozen Joshua Tree bobcats in that 2013 trapping season and Joshua Tree took that personally. We still miss them and we fixed a problem. Tom (and many others) done done it.


I never agree with david , this time I do. Its a shame we waited so long to stop this senseless practice.


What David? I guessed I missed that one, can you link a source please?


I guess my last comment didn't post? David, can you please post a link to the story you are talking about? I didn't catch that.


David here. Here's the January 2013 news article is here. While the 99 comments were being made.......the trapper was exposed, website was established and the last comment announces the start of the AB 1213 bobcat trapping ban buffer zone around Joshua Tree National Park.

Amanda Alsoomse

Hip Hip Hoorah!!! Let the trappers hunt each other. That seems fair. I wonder what the pelt of a Great White Hunter would sell for? Really, I don't wish anyone harm, even those as odious as trappers. They need to be put out of business, tho.


Thanks David, I'll check that out. As for this ban being passed, I think it is irresponsible and ill advised for politicians to impose any sort of blanket ban without doing their research first. The department of fish and game is responsible, and does an excellent job of monitoring local wildlife resources and keeping the natural ecosystems in balance by properly regulating hunting, trapping, etc. How does some politician in a far off city claim to have more knowledge of bobcat populations? Secondly, why do we need to extend non-trapping zones to those areas surrounding wildlife refuges? That's what the refuge is for! Keep public spaces open to legal hunting/trapping or expand the park itself I say.


These Commissioners are from all over the state and some are hunters. I watched the live stream of the hearing and it was a close one. There's already six states that BAN bobcat trapping altogether. The public input was about thirty thousand to a couple of hundred in favor of the total ban (option 2). One Commissioner wanted to not choose either option and send it to Fish and Game Staff for another redo and one wanted to vote for option #1 (lots of buffer ozone enforcement). The Prez and two commissioners couldn't find the science to deny a full ban.
The trapping system regulation is highly reliant on the "honesty" of the trappers. If you read ALL THOSE COMMENTS, you'll find that the Hi Desert Trapper lied about the number he trapped and lied about "not knowing it was private property". To view one of his thirty traps daily - he had the trap trip flag within binocular view on Rice Rd.. The trap on Tom Okey's land was only viewable from the almost direct East view on Rice Rd. Looking past a chained road with the Private Property sign and a self standing No Trespassing Sign. When the trapper talked to the good young blond female reporter - he spilled what he does in a very forthright manner. He later had regrets and started changing his story. I knew this reporter from many other concerns (I'm a reliable news source to both Hi Desert Star and KCDZ for over two decades) and talked to her about details of the interview - the Trapper was lying. This trapper had an assistant and was maintaining 30 traps near the Northern border of Joshua Tree National Park in an attempt to lure JTNP bobcats from prime territory. The trapper merrily messed with the wrong people's land. The trap was in Tom's little boulder mountain (this is about 1600 ft West of the hospital, about a thousand feet South of the Hwy) because bobcats always try to have a height refuge from coyotes on the near horizon. There's too much to tell about this bobcat trapping problem - there's a website that was set up during the month that those Jan-Feb 2013 comments period. It's


Just read ALL of the comments from your linked article, whew! I see there was a lot of emotion surrounding this debate and I'm sorry that I missed the initial salvo somehow. Thank you again for the links and background information. I just have a couple of comments and then I will leave this one alone as I'm sure everyone that participated in the ban has already made their minds up and will not be swayed.

First, I am an avid hunter in this area and know the area you speak of well. As I have only been hunting this area for a few years, I guess I probably missed the trappers sets as they were probably already retrieved. That being said, I always purchase a bobcat tag, have seen MANY bobcats, and have shot none. Why? I've never felt inclined to do so. Bobcats are some of the most beautiful and elusive creatures I have every witnessed in my many years of hunting. I buy the tag to support conservation, which leads me to my second point.

If everyone were to step back a bit and read over the trappers comments with a neutral perspective, I believe they would recognize that this person is not a barbarian but instead a knowledgeable and "good" person. Admittedly, I don't know him personally, but I do know hundreds of other hunters and so I do speak from experience when I say that most are. Most of us love the land and her creatures just as much as any tree hugging doctor in San Francisco, arguably more. We hunt and trap to get outdoors and experience nature, we would not want that experience to change. So if the hunting/trapping laws are outdated, let's work together and change them, I'm all onboard for that. Believe it or not we have more in common than you think, and can probably get a lot accomplished together if we just keep cool heads. I fear that this legislation was not done in that spirit and unfortunately we might see the negative results of that over the coming years.


As you witnessed in the comments, mine were mostly at the front half and direct engagement with Hi Desert Trapper (including the admission he was the trapper). The trapper was in it for the money. Deploying ten sets of three nesting traps (30 in total) requires about five hours of trap monitoring a day if ten minutes is the average travel and lookee for each one. It's not getting in touch with nature - it's racing by vehicle between one trap to another. The trapping world is a bit different than hunting. In California - Trappers take six times as many bobcats in a far shorter season with a different type of engagement.
The later comments included more emotional attitudes (not necessarily less credible) as the days went on. Again, the trapper put his trap on the wrong property and against all odds - Bobcat trapping has been banned in California. Yea Tom.


Opie, the ban issue was based on science, period. The state avoided counting its bobcats since the 70s - so waiting for the state to come up with funding before banning trapping would likely be another 30 year wait - but I suppose that was the point in hunters proposing that one, right?

Somehow claiming bobcats are plentiful is actually the shot-in-the-dark opinion. Trying to paint the Option 2 supporters as somehow merely emotional is just an ignorant ploy to evade the truth.

Neither of these dishonest ploys dissuaded the majority of commissioners from banning trapping, thank goodness.

And don't you worry about bobcats overpopulating. Maybe you were absent that day in class, but predators' numbers rise and fall with their prey. Fewer prey translates to lower bobcat reproduction rates. This is not true vice-versa - remove the predators and the prey numbers go way up - and that means devastation to the plants.

Anyone remember when desert tortoises were plentiful? Me neither. You'd have to go back to the 1950s to find that. Funny how their disappearance coincided with the homesteading out here.

Bobcats would have gone the same way if we'd left it to the trappers. The locals already noticed the dearth of animals in a single season of trapping. And they still haven't sprung back.

Thank you volunteers, supporters and Commissioners on a job well done!


I do agree with you both that a change needed to be made, my question is why did the pendulum swing so far? Why do we go from no limit trapping to a statewide ban? And yes, maybe I did miss it but what "science" was this latest decision based on? I say this was an emotional decision because it was not based on science that I can tell. If the survey was outdated then they should have enacted limits on the number of animals that could be taken or a partial ban (as recommended by the experts at the DFW) until a new study could be conducted. When they make a decision just to appease public outcry in the face of their own advisors that screams politics, not science.


"...why did the pendulum swing so far?" Did you understand what the Trapper Nathan Brock did? He "fished out" (bobcated?) the entire Northern Edge of Joshua Tree National Park in the community of Joshua Tree. The Panorama Heights (way eastern Joshua Tree) and all the way to the Lower Covington area (La Contenta Rd.) was COMPLETELY decimated of four dozen bobcats. Trapped - Killed - Skinned - Sold by this "a knowledgeable and "good" person" who outright lied about not knowing Tom's property was private.
If bobcats have an average territory of 6-10 square miles each - do the figuring when 46 were taken from 10-12 square miles in Joshua Tree along the Northern edge of the Park. Nathan Brock the trappers name is MUD - even among other "former" California trappers.


I do understand and like I said before, I AGREE with you that no limit trapping is wrong but you didn't answer my question. Why not change the law to read 1 cat per year, 2 per year, etc. vice an outright ban? Reading the previous comments and articles, the trapper was right according to the law but had questionable morals in the eyes of the community. The law is what needs to be addressed here, utilizing sound research and science provided by the experts at CA DFW. This was not done. There was no updated study conducted and in the interim the panel went against the recommendations of the DFW who are paid to monitor our wildlife resources. As for the trapper being a liar, I don't know, I wasn't there to see the situation on the ground so I will just have to take your word on that one.


The Trapper brought the whole issue of bobcat trapping to the California public's radar. He did so by using Mercer Lawlings of Barstow "nesting trap" system which was an "improvement" in trapping deployment efficiency and didn't concern himself with the morals of trapping what seems every last bobcat in the region. He was also doing so by luring bobcats out of the protected JTNP territory - a further outrage. Like the "Cecil the Lion" incident - it outraged many (30,000 is a good number) California residents who wanted an outright ban. Nathan Brock blew it. California wildlife has taken a great hit in the last century (that Bear on the CA flag is long gone in CA) and the concerned public has had enough. California residents are also offended by the fact this bobcat trapping is being subsidized by CA taxpayers and the All Knowing Fish and Game Staff was trying to factor in TWICE as many trappers than actual licenses on the self-sufficient fiscal cost requirement. We know who's side the F & G Staff was on and it wasn't ours.

Branson Hunter

I agree with Amanda. Let all the hunters hunt themselves. I'm willing to take up a collection to pay for the ammo. That dentist that killed the Lion and decapitated her is scum. Too bad the Lion didn't do him in.


Mr. Opie, you answered your own question when you wrote:
"That being said, I always purchase a bobcat tag, have seen MANY bobcats, and have shot none. Why? I've never felt inclined to do so. Bobcats are some of the most beautiful and elusive creatures I have every witnessed in my many years of hunting." Nathan Brock brought the issue into the news and many Californians decided they felt as you do--bobcats should be protected; and allowing even a few of these magnificent creatures to be wantonly slaughtered for the fur trade is unacceptable.


Two years ago we had a regular visit everyday from two bobcat cubs who would come by to drink from our water trough. Then they disappeared. We joined the group to outlaw bobcat trapping when we heard there was a trapper in the neighborhood. We're at the park entrance, and haven't seen a bobcat since...........are there any all......Joshua Tree? Did he wipe out our entire genetic line of bobcats?


David there may be some truth to your statement about the DFW folks being less than ethical in their assessments but I would hope that is not the case. I would rather not speculate and give them the benefit of the doubt without having facts to prove otherwise.

Zagloba, I know what I said and I think you missed my point. What I'm saying is that an outright ban has negative impacts all it's own. Many sportsmen, like myself, spend a lot of $$ towards conservation and not only abide by the letter of the law (as Brock did), but the spirit of the law as well (where he was wrong). Where the state failed was to properly put regulations in place to manage their resources. There is a time and place for no limit take, such as feral species that need to be eliminated. The local bobcats should not have been lumped into this category. Where the state failed the second time (in my opinion), having seen this scenario play out in other places, was to take this isolated event and use it to swing management the entire other direction, imposing a complete ban. This eliminates the balance that is in place with proper wildlife management and also eliminates conservation $$ raised from sportsmen that might pay for trapping permits, etc.

Desertgal, I can assure you that there are still bobcats in our desert. I am regularly out in the field and see their sign all the time. Bobcats are a very elusive creature and will rarely be seen. In my case, growing up in Kansas, we also had bobcats, and I may have seen 4 or 5 of them the entire time growing up until I left high school and we had a healthy population. In my combined 5 years here, I have seen over twice that many, some of which did not even care that I was around. My last sighting was about a month ago. I'm no biologist, but this tells me that there are plenty of bobcats in our area, even now. Sensible regulation of the population, as recommended by the DFW, makes sense to me. Should this complete ban be left in place you will see big changes in the critters you witness over the coming years.


There is no money raised for conservation by the State's trapping fee structures. The estimated cost of enforcement by the F & G Staff was about $212,000 for either Option #1 (zoning enforcement) or Option #2 (total ban). The previous years trapper numbers were about one hundred and the trapping fee was a little over a hundred dollars. The state also collects on the pelts exported (I think it was proposed to be about a $35 fee per pelt). The number of trapped bobcats per year recently has been about 1600 (less than $60,000 for exported pelt fees) and the trapping license total would be about $12,000. So the State's total cost recovery from trappers is less than $75,000. Compare that with over two hundred thousand dollars in enforcement costs and the state is subsidizing trappers.
When F & S Staff was figuring cost recovery for the "self-sustaining" trapping numbers (AB 1213 required) - they magically had the number at TWO hundred trapper permits instead of the REAL one hundred trapper number (which MOST likely would have been drastically reduced if the trapping permit cost went from $113 to over a thousand dollars). As you might guess from the Jan 22nd, 2013 trap finding till now - I've been following this issue and am good friends with Tom who had a follow through like NO OTHER. This barbaric 19th Century practice has met it's demise due to one trapper's seemingly unstoppable greed being........STOPPED.


Let me reiterate again, I am not a trapper myself, only a concerned sportsman who feels the need to represent those that obviously don't wish to chime in on this topic.

Where do those enforcement numbers come from? Even adding fluff for bribes, etc. these numbers are shocking. There are a few points in your comments that lead me to believe that these figures are either wrong or not broke out to specifically identify costs associated with trapping.

First off, the F & G personnel are supposed to be in the area already, conducting enforcement on all manner of wildlife responsibilities, so is this $200k in addition to that cost already factored? From my experience with enforcement personnel, they only go for the 'low hanging fruit', which doesn't cost them near that much. I have never been contacted by a warden out in the middle of nowhere (which would cost $ for them), but have always been asked about my permits, etc. when at check stations or staging areas (very easy to get to). So I just don't see where all of that additional $ would be going above and beyond what they should already be doing.

Secondly, there is much more revenue being generated for federal, state, and local economies than just the license or permit itself. I could go on for days about how much time, fuel, equipment, food, etc. that I buy for myself and friends/family directly related to hunting trips. This all takes place usually in the towns closest to where these activities are permitted (i.e. Joshua Tree). Reminds me of a couple of years ago after returning from a duck hunt to the Salton Sea, a friend commented to me how nice it must be to get 'free' meat like that. I had to explain that it is far from free, we crunched the numbers and each duck for that trip had cost us over $50!


This is the link to the website with the August 5th, 2016 Fish & Game Commission. In there - F & S Staff say it'll cost $212,406 if the Commission chooses Option #1 and $211,006 if they choose Option #2. That's their figures.

If you go to this website:

download the PDF on item 20 on the agenda

Then go to page 19 of the agenda's PDF there's the numbers

Now there's all kinds of figures on how they can recoup the self-sustaining costs and their 200 trapper number was a "five year average" when the most recent number was one hundred trappers...............So the majority of the commission thinks they had enough of all this bother for one hundred trappers and the F & S Staff costs in just figuring all this out and banned Bobcat trapping. has plenty of info and resources - so I suggest going there.


Go Bobcats!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.