Athens City Council members passed a one-reading resolution at the Monday night city council meeting opposing the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ proposed rule that would allow for the trapping and killing of bobcats.

The rule allows for licensed bobcat trappers to trap and kill bobcats in Southeast Ohio. Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward, called the proposed rule "premature" because not enough research has been done to assess the bobcat population.

The proposed ODNR rule is based on an increase in bobcat deaths in Southeast Ohio, Risner said. 

Risner read a resolution authored by Heather Cantino, the vice chair of the Buckeye Forest Council board. According to the resolution, the rule change is irresponsible because bobcats were taken off the threatened and endangered list only four years ago. 

“The species is still recovering from extirpation, is poorly understood and may already be compromised by roadkill and incidental trapping,” according to the resolution. “Bobcats do not overpopulate. Just like all wild cats, their populations are self-regulating.”

The resolution states the increase in bobcat sightings could be due to factors other than actual population increase. 

“I like the idea that there’s wild animals in the woods,” Risner said. “They’re worth more to me alive than they are dead.”

Rachel Martin, a representative for a group called Bobcats for Bobcats, spoke in favor of the resolution.

Martin said the group supports the resolution because the increase in bobcat sightings may be due to an increase in popularity of trail cameras and increased efforts to solicit bobcat sightings. She said only a conclusive genetic and DNA sampling can accurately assess the population. 

City council members also discussed allowing the mayor to apply for a community development block grant for critical infrastructure. The grant would be used for improvements to a reservoir and for the dewatering equipment at the wastewater treatment plant. 

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said the one million gallon capacity reservoir needs exterior patching, crack filling, roof sealing and mechanical work. 

Risner said the reservoir serves over 7,500 people in Athens.

“I think it’s a pretty important project to make sure they all have access to water for household use and public safety,” he said. 

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