How one bobcat was worth $308,105 (it wasn’t for their fur!)

How one bobcat was worth $308,105 (it wasn’t for their fur!)

How did a single bobcat get valued at $308,105? A paper published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation answered that question – and challenged what it means for wildlife management in the mid-Western state.

'Contrasting bobcat values', penned by Dr. Mark Elbroch, Puma Program Lead Scientist forPanthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and LisaRobertson, KristinCombs, and JennyFitzgerald, reported on the economic impact of a single bobcat in Yellowstone National Park.

“One bobcat has been particularly visible along the Madison River, and has increasingly attracted tourists and photographers,” the authors wrote. “In combining revenues invested by photographers in travel and local communities bordering Yellowstone NP (sic) with revenues earned by photographers through print sales, we estimated an impressive, conservative non-consumptive value of US$308,105 for the Madison bobcat for a single winter.”

This number isn’t even complete – numerous photographers did not or were unable to respond to the authors’ request for data.

The stark contrast between a relatively low-value trapping industry and a booming, non-consumptive ecotourism industry pressed the authors to call for regulatory changes to bobcat management in the state, as well as the rest of North America.

“Given the volatility of international fur markets, increased tolerance for predators around the globe, increased appreciation for non-consumptive users by wildlife managers, and increasing interest surrounding bobcats that suggests that they may support ecotourism and its associated conservation measures and community development, we argue it is time to review current bobcat regulatory policies and management across their range.”

The three specific requests made by the authors include:

  1. Mandatory reporting for bobcats legally killed, in addition to CITES (Conservation on the International Trade of Endangered Species) permits for exports and sales;
  2. Range-wide seasonal bag limits for licensed hunters and trappers. Limits must vary from state to state to match local bobcat abundances, but should not threaten the ecological contributions of bobcats to ecosystems or their potential to act as stewards supporting ecotourism; and,
  3. For bobcats to be managed as either furbearers or game species, with associated protection.

“Through the implementation of our proposed regulatory changes, wildlife managers will also help spread financial resources and ensure that local communities, rather than select individuals, reap the benefits of healthy bobcat populations through revenues invested by tourists over trappers,” the authors conclude.

Simply put – the world is changing, along with how we view wildlife, and how the individual animals are valued by society. It’s time for policies to reflect that.

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