Cat Fight

Jan 15, 2016

How cruelty killed the bobcat

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.

Some trappers argue that the pain inflicted by the traps is exaggerated, so reporter Tom Knudson tested out just how strong these steel jaws can be:

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.

In the last 15 years, the number of bobcat pelts exported from the U.S. surged from 15,000 to more than 67,000. And so far, fur trapping is not threatening the bobcat population.

It’s with this in mind that Knudson and producer Ike Sriskandarajah examine what’s really at stake when trapping bobcats: how we define cruelty.


Saving feral cats is humane – but there’s a catch

We have more cats than dogs in our homes today. But for every pet cat curled up in our laps, there’s another one roaming our alleyways, parks and other places around the country: 80 million of them. If you don’t see many of them, it’s because several are feral and avoid human contact.

Right now, the question of how to best control these cats is sparking a lot of controversy. At issue is whether they are pets gone astray that we should be protecting or invasive predators that are decimating local wildlife.

For generations, animal shelters have tried to curb the wildcat population in two ways: adoption or euthanasia. Conservation groups want animal control agencies to limit the population because cats kill lots of native wildlife. But cat lovers say they have a more humane and effective way to reduce the number of feral cats – and their message is catching on.

Producer Adithya Sambamurthy takes us deep inside the feral cat movement to examine what this cat fight is all about.

Reveal is a weekly radio program produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. For more, check out our website and subscribe to our podcast.