You’ve probably never seen a bobcat.
It’s an elusive creature that’s about two to three times the size of a house cat – a feline with distinctive spotted fur that’s coveted around the world.
In many states in the U.S., it’s legal to trap and kill bobcats, a native and abundant wild feline. It’s also legal to capture the cats with steel-jaw traps – tools so hazardous and indiscriminate that they’ve been banned in more than 80 countries. And it’s not just how bobcats are caught that’s controversial – it’s the gruesome way many are killed to protect their pelts: strangulation.
By using what are called choke poles, trappers prevent blood from staining the bobcat’s fur, which makes the pelts more valuable.
The number of bobcat pelts exported from the U.S. has quadrupled in recent years, climbing to more than 65,000 in 2013. And so far, fur trapping is not threatening the bobcat population.
It’s with this in mind that reporter Tom Knudson and producer Ike Sriskandarajah examine what’s really at stake when trapping bobcats: how we define cruelty.