Proposal to name official NC cat passes House in 107-5 vote

Originally Published in News & Observer

N.C. House legislators are making another attempt to name the bobcat as North Carolina’s official state cat, following a request from a group of Rocky Mount elementary school students.

The bill passed the House in 2015, but it didn’t get a vote in the Senate and was instead replaced with a hospital regulation bill. On Tuesday, a new version of the bill passed the House Wildlife Resources Committee and later got a 107-5 vote on the House floor. The proposal now heads to the Senate.

Rep. John Ager, a Buncombe County Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, pointed out that the bobcat is found in all 100 North Carolina counties. But Rep. Brian Turner, an Asheville Democrat, said that he’s heard from people at Western Carolina University who want their mascot – the catamount – to be chosen for the honor.

“While I do appreciate that the bobcat is in 100 countuies and is a fantastic animal, I do have reservations about not including the catamount in this legislation,” Turner said.

Rep. Mike Clampitt, a Republican whose district includes Western Carolina, pointed out that bobcats and catamounts are closely related.

“They will capitalize highly on having the premier cat of the state,” Clampitt said of the university.

North Carolina doesn’t currently have a state cat, but it recognizes 12 other animals as official state symbols. The official state marsupial is the Virginia opposum, and the official state freshwater trout is the Southern Appalachian strain of brook trout.

In 2015, students from Benvenue Elementary in Rocky Mount came to the legislature to lobby for the bobcat, but they did not attend Tuesday’s committee meeting.

Another House bill filed this year would name the golden silk spider as the official state spider. But it faces competition from a Senate bill that would instead pick the Linville Caverns spider as the official spider.