Published March 1, 2007 | March 2007 issue
Affluent, fashion-conscious consumers in China and other Asian countries are driving strong demand for high-quality bobcat pelts from Montana. That in turn has driven up prices and swelled the ranks of trappers looking to cash in on the bobcat boom.
Pelt prices have risen dramatically from an average of $280 in 2003 to $345 last year, according to the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. At the same time, a thriving cat population has kept state trapping quotas high—about 2,230 animals for the season that ended in January. The scent of profit has drawn former trappers back into the business and attracted new ones; since the early 1990s the number of trapping licenses issued each year has doubled to about 3,600.
Bobcats are relatively easy to catch, but one market factor has favored the felines recently: a trap shortage. Trap manufacturers have had trouble keeping up with surging demand.