Bobcat pelts in demand

Montana State Roundup

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.

Phil Davies


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No one is sure how many illegal immigrants have come to the state in recent years, drawn by jobs in food service, agriculture and tourism; estimates by the Census Bureau and various think tanks are subject to large margins of error. What is for sure is that enough undocumented workers have made their way to the Treasure State to raise concerns that they are taking away jobs from U.S. citizens and burdening social services.

Expressing frustration with the failure of the federal government to stem the tide of illegal immigration, several legislators have proposed state laws that crack down on illegal aliens, primarily by punishing businesses that hire them.

Two bills sponsored by Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, hit employers of illegal immigrants squarely in their pocketbooks. One measure would bar the state from issuing contracts to companies that employ undocumented workers; the other would prohibit employers from claiming wages paid to illegal workers as a state tax deduction. Rep. Mike Jopek, D-Whitefish, has introduced a bill that would allow state officials to close a business after a third offense of knowingly employing illegal aliens.

Other bills in play this session would prohibit illegal immigrants from renewing certain occupational licenses, receiving public assistance and registering to vote.

Phil Davies