Where to start? This is a difficult subject because data is difficult to find. Particularly current figures. It would be nice to know if the trade is growing. It should not be. The date of this post is 11th July 2012.
The subject interests me because I hate the fur trade. Animal trade is worth $15 billion worldwide. Every second of every hour of every day an animal is killed for the skin on its back. While you are reading this sentence, 5 animals were slaughtered. Do we know how the animal was killed? Was it done humanely, decently? How can it be done decently when the whole bloody business is indecent as far as I am concerned? I respect the views of others, though.
I want to focus on the Lynx species (see a page on the Canadian lynx). The bobcat falls into that category. This is a cat with a supposed stable population which is why people are allowed to trap it, kill it, skin it and wear it.
There was a time (up until the mid 1900s?) when bobcats and lynxes were killed as pests. People have a problem with other predators because we are the top predator and we like to keep it that way.
The bobcat and lynx skin trade went up a year after the introduction of CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) in 1974. In 1975 there was a ban on trade of ocelot, tiger and cheetahs (placed on Appendix I list). Note: these animals are still traded because CITES is an international agreement loosely enforced. The lynxes are listed in CITES Appendix II which means trade is allowed but regulated. The USA authorities want that listing to be discontinued claiming the trade does not need regulation as it is well managed and the bobcat population is stable. The bobcat is harvested legally in 38 US states. There is some illegal trading.
The spotted belly of the lynxes is what the traders like. The spotted belly fur of the lynxes substituted the spotted bellies of the banned cats. Lynxes trapped and killed rose dramatically and in 1984 over 84,000 where ‘harvested’ (a most disrespectful word and a very human concept).
Increased prices indicate increased demand but static supply. This puts pressure on the business to kill more. Population sizes are vaguely assessed. Experts don’t know population sizes accurately. The fur business will lobby to misrepresent the figures as lower than they are. This is short term thinking, as usual. Short term thinking is one of the great weaknesses of humankind. It leads to disaster (e.g. banking crisis).
Estimated population of bobcats in USA: 1.4 and 2.6 million5. However the IUCN Red List™ states: 1980s: 725,000 to 1 million (Nowell and Jackson 1996). You can see the large discrepancies. Have populations gone up from the 1980s? The Red List say it is stable (at 2012).
China and Russia are the prime buyers. China is getting richer and they have no policy on animal welfare. Although ‘roughly half the US bobcat harvest is currently used within the United States’7.
Statistics by date
(these cannot be collated more neatly in my opinion because the sources vary and the topic varies slightly).
- Missouri: 91 bobcats harvested
- Missouri: 1,107 bobcats harvested
- Massachusetts and New Hampshire: 40 annually
- California: more than 10,000 annually
- Texas: a record 17,686 bobcats harvested
- 60,000 to 80,000 bobcats ‘entered international market’.¹
- 18,000 to 20,000 North American lynx pelts in market.¹
- 6,000 to 7,000 Eurasian lynx (from Soviet Union and Scandinavia)¹
- Full harvest for USA and Canada was estimated to be 90,000 to 100,000 skins per year.7
- Number of bobcats trapped in US (all 50 states): 24,070²
- Bobcat annual exports averaged 13,4946
- New Mexico: over 10,000 bobcats killed for fur.3
- ‘A tripling in less than five years of the number of cats trapped each year in the U.S. Almost 50,000 bobcats were killed for their pelts.’5
- Pelts exported from USA fell from 49,700 to 31,680 over this period.5
- Nevada: 10,260 bobcats skinned.5
- Bobcat annual exports averaged 29,7726
- 51,419 bobcat skins exported (UNEP-WCMC 2008)
2012 – Prices:
- Bobcat: $68 – $380, with the top fur bringing $1,2754
- Lynx: average price of $123 and a top of $3404
- You will never wrestle the fur trade away from big business. The only thing that will stop it is when the bobcat and the lynxes gradually become extinct. The irony is that the more rare a wild cat species becomes the more likely it is to be killed and CITES or any manner of agreement or enforcement cannot alter that brutal fact.
- We need better population estimates and assessment as to sustainability.
- For me it should be fazed out over a long period starting now.
Note: I respect the views of opinions of others and many people like to shoot bobcats and lynxes for sport or to make some money from their skin. I understand that.