Bobcat fur coats raise trapping concern in West

Russian and Chinese demand pushes up pelt prices for this medium sized wildcat’s hide-

While there seem to be a lot of  bobcats in the United States, the population size is pretty much a guess. Most of the concern over trapping increase is in the Western states. Bobcat fur coats raise trapping concern in West. By Martin Griffith. Associated Press.





  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The “bobcat resting” photo looks more like one of a trapped bobcat with some grass thrown over the trap to hide it. Leg-hold traps should be banned in all states.

  2. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    It looks more like it was taken at one of the game farms that cater to photographers….

  3. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I have never been to one of those game farms that cater to photographers, but they would have to produce more life-like poses than the trapped bobcat in the photo if they wanted to stay in business.
    A teenage neighbor of ours, when I was about 9 or 10, used to set traps for bobcats and weasels. He would suspend a dead rabbit from a tree branch about 6 feet off of the ground and set his traps underneath.
    I remember finding magpies, crows and skunks, all with compound- fractures of their legs, caught in his steel traps. I don’t know if he ever caught a bobcat, but he made a lot of other animals suffer while he tried.

  4. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Larry….check out “”, a ban is in the works here in Montana

  5. JB Avatar

    “Leg-hold traps should be banned in all states.”

    Leg-hold traps are not just used for recreational trapping. They are also used to capture animals for (1) research, (2) to inoculate them against diseases, and (3) to remove (i.e. move, kill) nuisance wildlife. Should these uses be banned as well?

    Research indicates that padded and off-set leg-hold traps can dramatically reduce injuries caused by steel leg-hold traps.

    Note: Personally, I don’t care much for recreational trapping. But I don’t think you need to ban all leg-hold traps to get rid of recreational trapping.

  6. JB Avatar

    …and the authors of ballot initiatives would likely find less opposition if their proposals included exceptions for trapping animals for research and the removal of diseased animals.

  7. mikepost Avatar

    Plenty of bobcats in S California today in spite of heavy trapping in the 70’s when Sonny & Cher created the bobcat vest fad. Check your mom’s closet…

  8. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    JB…..”the authors of ballot initiatives would likely find less opposition if their proposals included exceptions for trapping animals for research and the removal of diseased animals”
    I’m curious exactly which initiatives, from which states, your referencing with that statement?

  9. JB Avatar

    Jerry: I’m referring to any initiatives that may be planned. One of the biggest and most persistent criticisms of of past ballot initiatives banning banned leg-hold traps (e.g. Colorado) is that some have completely handicapped managers and researchers. A number of species will not go into a cage trap, so bans that don’t include exceptions effectively prevent these animals from being caught, vaccinated, studied, etc.

  10. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    JB…..I think you’ll be happy with the wording of the Footloose initiative. Should be submitted this week.

  11. JB Avatar

    Great to hear!

  12. william huard Avatar

    If you read the article that goes with this section my question is simple-Isn’t it irresponsible for states to have unregulating trapping when there is no accurate figure on how many bobcats there are? I know there was an issue in Montana last year over unregulated wolverine trapping- an animal that is claerly endangered in the U.S. My issue with trappers relates to their emails that I read last year in reference to the Indiana Dept of Resources attempt to regulate the trappers season after it was discovered that the trappers were sending coyotes to Southern Hunting Clubs so they could use them for “wildlife penning”. There were hundreds of dispicable emails from trappers saying how cool it was to see coyotes being ripped apart by hunting dogs. I know not all trappers have contempt for the animals that they trap- but it disturbs me how some states still allow the use of the steel-jawed leghold trap- an evil device thatshould have been banned decades ago.
    I was told by an official in the Trappers Assoc that there are states that still use this trap. I have had trouble finding out which states they are.

  13. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    William….there are fewer than a dozen states that have banned the use of leg-hold traps, and a few that prohibit trapping altogether on public lands such as Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Calif .
    Snares are just as bad as legholds and probably cause more “incidental” take such as fawns, elk calves, lynx, family pets etc. Montana has basically no regulations when it comes to trapping for non-game species. such as coyotes and foxes. They can be trapped year round.
    An excellent discussion on traps and how to free your dog from one can be found at

  14. Maska Avatar

    While Arizona has banned trapping on public lands, New Mexico has not. It’s interesting (and depressing) to note that at least four reintroduced Mexican wolves have suffered injuries from non-project traps in New Mexico that have resulted in amputations*, including both alpha members of the current Middle Fork pack. The alpha female lost a leg in January 2008, while the alpha male lost his in January 2009. This pack now has the dubious distinction of having three adult/subadult members with a total of ten legs.

    Despite this sorry record, trapping is not even banned within Mexican wolf home ranges. A public lands trapping ban could make a huge difference, since 95% of the Mexican wolf recovery area consists of public lands (96% in New Mexico!).

    * Those wolves are F562 (2005), M1039 (2007), F861 (2008), and M871 (2009).

  15. william huard Avatar

    The Trappers Assoc is quick to defend their rights. Family pets, random wildlife all fall victim to this B.S. Now you have the NRA, Safari Club and others helping to prolong this suffering- I don’t get it.

  16. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I just looked at the photo of the trapped raccoon on the website jerry b listed above. Anyone who could treat animals in this fashion should be locked up. Padded traps used by researchers may not always break the bones of the animals they capture, but the animals caught in these traps suffer greatly anyway. Traps found set on public land should find their way to the bottom of the nearest beaver pond.

  17. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Maska…….from what I understand, New Mexico doesn’t have an “initiative” process. Is that true?
    In Montana, to try and change trapping laws through the legislative process has been futile, hence the people’s initiative route.
    It’s mind-boggling that trapping is allowed within areas that is habitat for endangered or threatened species.

  18. Maska Avatar

    That’s true, Jerry. No initiative process in NM. And unfortunately, even some fairly lobo-friendly Game Commissioners and state legislators are unwilling to take on the trapping question.

  19. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I spent some time in Arizona and New Mexico this winter looking for Mexican Wolves to photograph. I couldn’t understand the fish and game commissions of both states introducing the wolves, but at the same time allowing the hunting and trapping of coyotes in the same area. Young Mexican Wolves are very hard to tell from coyotes and some coyote hunters really don’t care.
    I stopped in Arizona to see black-footed ferrets and there were hunters blasting away at prairie dogs right in the middle of the ferret reintroduction area. Someone seems to be setting up these programs to fail.

  20. W.S. Avatar

    I believe padded traps are more of a public relations item than a practical one. I doubt any Oregon fur trapper uses them because they’re more expensive and less effective than other types allowed. Various wildlife services use them for catch and release, for wolves especially, but unless the animals are quickly released the all-around pressure of the padded jaws cuts off blood circulation and causes permanent damage – foot loss. This according to Carter Niemeyer, former Idaho Wolf Project Leader for the USFWS.

  21. william huard Avatar

    These trappers are helping the worldwide fur industry. In China over the last few weeks more than 50,000 dogs were killed by government backed “death squads” who go into people’s homes and remove their pets (pets they paid for and have all the necessary paperwork for) and subsequently beat the dog to death- all because of a knee-jerk reaction to 2 or 3 rabies deaths. Go to Animalsasia website or Humane Society International. Why we would support such a brutal and uncaring culture is beyond me!

  22. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Larry, you described the experimental non-essential amendmant in action. A good example of that is in South Dakota where prairie dogs have to be legally controlled, including poisoning, even though ferrets are on the land.

  23. JB Avatar

    Wow, I don’t want to play the role of Layton, but we’ve got some comments here that need to be explored:

    “…it disturbs me how some states still allow the use of the steel-jawed leghold trap- an evil device that should have been banned decades ago.”

    Evil? Really? Cruel I can accept; at least, I can accept that trapping CAN be cruel. But “evil”? Sounds like Reagan-style melodrama to me.

    “…unless the animals are quickly released the all-around pressure of the padded jaws cuts off blood circulation and causes permanent damage – foot loss.”

    I find this to be a curious statement. Certainly, sustained pressure over a long enough period could do exactly what “W.S.” has described; however, we have no idea from this statement what is meant by “quickly”. A day? A half-day? An hour? A minute? I know researchers that have used padded traps to capture animals that have NEVER had this kind of problem. Typically, padded traps cause a minor hematoma (bruise) upon impact, though minor ligament damage is also common. Of course, researchers (as opposed to recreational trappers) also seek to minimize the time that animals spend in a trap, as an injured animal doesn’t make for a very good study subject.

    “Padded traps used by researchers may not always break the bones of the animals they capture, but the animals caught in these traps suffer greatly anyway.”

    Not always? Give me a break, Larry. In a study of injuries associated with padded and unpadded steel leg-hold traps, Olsen et al (1986) found that 91% of coyotes caught in unpadded traps sustained some type of fracture, while coyotes caught in the Victor No.3 Soft Catch had fractures 15% of the time. Moreover, 3rd and 4th generation padded traps actually have performed much better. A more recent study found that “Limbs of coyotes captured in the Fremont snare or padded trap were NEVER fractured, but fractures commonly occurred in the Novak snare (50%) and unpadded trap (48%)” (Onderka et al. 1990; emphasis mine). Moreover (and to the point raised by W.S.), they also found “There was a strong tendency for freezing to occur more often (P = 0.074) in limbs caught in the upadded trap (72%, n =22) than in the padded trap (47%, n = 21) [FYI: Freezing ONLY occurred when the minimum overnight temp was less than -8C.]

    I’m certainly not pro-trapping; but people who wish to judge the ethics of trapping for different purposes would do well to examine the facts about trapping, rather than simply relying on the words of those with a clear agenda.

    Olsen, G. H. et al. (1986). Injuries to Coyotes Caught in Padded and Unpadded Steel Foothold Traps. Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 219-223.

    Onderka, D. K. et al. (1990). Injuries to Coyotes and Other Species Caused by Four Models of Footholding Devices. Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 175-182.

  24. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Boy, JB,

    Talk about opening a can of worms that goes against the grain, I am really enjoying being a fly on the wall on this one!


  25. WS Avatar

    JB –

    I got this info in a conversati0on with Carter, who has trapped a lot of wolves for collaring. He didn’t specify a check time, but said he had observed wolves limping a few days after release, and later saw that they had lost the paw or leg. On the same occasion (the National Wolf Conference last year) I spoke with Rick Williamson, USDA Wildlife Services (Idaho) who was putting out some traps that night for wolves, and he mentioned that he slept in his pick-up nearby and got up every couple of hours to check the traps. So what do you think, maybe two hours? In the trapping world, that counts as “quickly.”

    In a subsequent study by Olsen et al. on injuries caused by padded traps, it was found that padded traps reduced sever injuries but did not eliminate them. Sometimes there was little difference in results between padded and unpadded traps. In both the Southeast and Northeast, for example, more than 50% of raccoons received numerous or severe injuries from both trap types. There was no reduction of injuries in bobcats caught by No. 1 1/2 soft catch traps. Of course no determination was made as to injury due to loss of circulation since the animals were immediately killed. From looking over this and other studies, it seems the larger animals suffer less injury in padded traps than the smaller ones. We’re not just talking about coyotes here. Also, all the studies I saw investigated foot damage only, so any other injuries, to the shoulder joints or leg tendons and muscles for example, caused by the struggle to escape were not noted.

    Olsen, G.H. et al. 1988. Reducing injuries to terrestrial furbearers by using padded foothold traps. Wildlife Society Bulletin 16:303-307.

  26. JB Avatar


    A 2007 study by Frame & Meier found no visible injury to 75% of wolves caught in padded jaw traps. The majority of the injured wolves suffered only bruising. I can’t speak to the time that it takes for a wolf to lose circulation in their leg; however, I can say that new technologies are drastically decreasing the time it takes to find and release captured animals. Neill et al. (2006) found that coupling padded traps with GSM trap alarms helped decrease injures and the average response time to just 22 minutes in a study of otters: “Functioning alarms reduced the injuries suffered from an average cumulative score of 77.7 to 5.5 on the International Organization for Standardization 10990-5 trauma scale (Z= -5.074, P </= 0.001)."

    There is no reason why such technologies can't be employed with wolves or other species.


    My only complaint about this site is that "group think" sometimes dominates the dialogue. I don't think it would come to a shock to anyone that the vast majority of readers are appalled by the practice of trapping. That's fine. All I'm saying is that these folks would do well to do a bit of investigating instead of just reacting to the picture of a cute critter in a trap.

    Neill et al. (2006). Minimizing leg-hold trapping for Otters With Mobile Phone Technology. Journal of Wildlife Management, 71(8):2776-2780.

    Onderka, et al. (2007) Injuries to coyotes and other species caused by four models of footholding devices. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 18(2):175-182.

  27. WS Avatar

    JB –

    You say, “All I’m saying is that these folks would do well to do a bit of investigating instead of just reacting to the picture of a cute critter in a trap.” But unless people are jolted into an awareness of trapping, nobody will do any investigating. I believe you mistake consensus for “group think.”

    Anyhow, nobody can deny that the use of padded traps and GSM technology as you describe would be a terrific improvement, but due to cost and the inconvenience of having to remain within 22 minutes of a trap set it will probably not be widely used. If the use of this arrangement could be legislated, it would satisfy a lot of the opposition to leg-hold traps. There would then remain the inhumanity of snares and Conibear traps.

    Thanks for bringing up this issue. Perhaps it could be reflected in future voter initiatives and in federal legislation. In a country that believes itself to be humane towards wildlife, it should be.

  28. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    JB and WS,

    I do sometimes worry about group think has operated rather than consensus, but not on pepper spray 😉

  29. JB Avatar

    “I do sometimes worry about group think has operated rather than consensus, but not on pepper spray.”

    –Or for that matter, on the topic of consensus (aka collaboration)!

    “I believe you mistake consensus for ‘group think.’”

    –Could be; but let’s compare definitions? In my view, consensus is reached when a group of individuals are in agreement concerning a matter. This can happen with or without critical debate. Group think, on the other hand, happens when people rely on the opinion of other, like-minded folks rather than take the time to sort out an issue for themselves. Group think is at work when people allow exaggerated claims to stand without challenge. It doesn’t require consensus; it just requires like-minded people to be silent. To me, this indicates that winning the debate or not contradicting an ally is more important than getting your facts straight.

    All I’ve done is point out that a few statements made above are bogus–or at least deserve some critical evaluation. As I said, I don’t mind seeing recreational trapping condemned, but statements that describe the practice as “evil” and assert that trappers should all be “locked up” are, to me, nothing short of melodrama. Moreover, the come dangerously close to dehumanizing people that engage in these activities–a practice I find far more despicable than trapping itself.

  30. WS Avatar

    Oh, I think fur trapping is evil, sure. But I wouldn’t dehumanize the trappers, no no. I would just say they were humans doing evil, common enough. I think there’s a consensus that humans can do evil things, eh? Based on historical facts and current observation, naturally .

  31. JB Avatar

    I once used a video in class that examined how people of different cultures treated animals. The video explored Jainism, whose adherents believe in the transmigration of souls. According to Jainism, any living animal (including insects) could be your long dead relative. The most strict adherents wore masks so as not to breath in and accidentally kill insects, and would walk with a broom so they could clear a path to the same end. The producers of the documentary contrasted this view with that of modern Chinese–they showed cats and dogs being slaughtered (just like we slaughter rabbits, chickens, or pigs) and cooked as delicacies in restaurants.

    There were always some students who didn’t get it. They would laugh at the absurd and unfamiliar practices of the Janes while decrying the behavior of the Chinese, labeling them “evil.”

    – – – –

    P.S. Personally, I don’t really see how the term “evil” is relevant in a debate about how wildlife should be treated or managed. You can’t disprove (scientifically speaking) that something is evil; there is no standardized measure. It is a term whose only purpose is to provoke a very unscientific, emotional response. If–as so many here contend–that the goal is to have scientifically justified/based management, then I simply don’t see a place for such rhetoric.

  32. JB Avatar

    Sorry, I realized before that I completely botched the second citation and forgot to fix it. It should read:

    Frame, P. F. & Meier, T. J. (2006). Field-assessed injury to wolves captured in rubber-padded traps. Journal of Wildlife Management, 71(6):2074-2076.

  33. WS Avatar

    Sure, “evil” is a value judgement. I suggest “unethical’ or “unfair” in its place. Humans have the power to “bully” animals. Many people feel this is wrong, especially when carried to extremes of physical or psychological cruelty. It’s usually an emotional response. I myself don’t seek “scientifically justified/based management” of wildlife. I would prefer management that attempts a significant degree of “fairness.” Science and ethics have only a tenuous connection, perhaps a tortuous one.

    If we continue this discussion along these lines we will arrive at the Nietzchean abyss. Why don’t we agree that the use of leg- and body-hold traps are generally very harmful to animals and ought to be restricted if not completely eliminated wherever possible?

  34. Michael Avatar

    Trapping is not just for recreation. It is a way of life that has been going on for hundreds of years. Without trappers we would have an overpopulation of diseased furbearers that everybody would eventually get tired of. In some places you can’t even let your cat or dog outside at night for fear that a coyote will eat it. Beavers are another issue. Beavers stop up water sources, which isn’t always bad because it does sometimes provide waterfowl a place to stay but for the most part they are just a pest. Sure you can blast a beaver dam to clear out a river or stream but they can just rebuild it over night. I agree that foot hold traps are not the most ethical way to get rid of these animals but it is very effective.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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