Bobcat fur coats have become a hot item among the fashion conscious in Russia, China, Italy and Greece, leading to a huge jump in prices and exports for the pelts. The fur's booming popularity has wildlife advocates worried about the cats being over-hunted, especially since the species is reclusive and difficult to monitor. The most recent population estimate for the U.S. is more than 26 years old and there are no population estimates for Canada and Mexico. Advocates are also concerned because the animals suffer an inhumane death; hunters often use leg-hold traps to capture and kill them.
Bobcats pelts now draw some of the highest prices among trapped furs, and as the price as gone up, the number of bobcat skins exported by the U.S. has nearly tripled in six years, with the U.S. leading in bobcat exportation. One estimate indicates that commercial hunters every year sell more than 54,000 skins on the international market, a five-fold increase since the mid-1990s. Many pelts end up in Italy and Greece, where companies turn the furs into coats and other garments.
Bobcats, like all such apex predators, are a vital part of the ecosystem. They help control populations of rodents and other small prey. Although protected under international laws like the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), loopholes, exemptions and lax enforcement have allowed a huge international market for trading bobcat fur.