Quite a bit has gone on between now and the lull from my last post. There were two weeks that instead of hiking, I worked on compiling national data concerning bobcats and bobcat harvests for the fur trade. I must admit that I am quite surprised there is still a need for the fur market in this country (and in many others) with so many other options for fashion statements. Whenever I see someone sporting a fur coat or stole, I don't remark on their obvious wealth... I just notice how inconceivably heartless they must be to be willing to wear someone's skin.  It seems obvious that the bobcat needs the skin more than humans do, so I take pride in saying that nothing has to die for me to look good.  Not to mention that it takes at least thirty small cat hides to make one coat (I learned this while working at Carolina Tiger Rescue. People sell serval skins and claim it is cheetah fur. They look nothing alike!). I digress. The data will help my boss in determining population trends for her project, so the lives are not lost in vain. I also managed to use Excel without throwing my laptop, so it was a win-win for all involved.

Two weeks ago Bobbie and I traveled to Bozeman, Montana to do bobcat necropsies. A necropsy is the animal version of a human autopsy (autopsy is reserved for humans only. We are a special animal.). My plan for years was to become a veterinarian, so I really enjoy using a scalpel. My boss recently noticed a bumper sticker stating "I like to poke dead things with sticks." This reminds me of the insatiable curiosity I possessed as a child, and although I would never put something like that on my car because it's creepy, I really do love learning about the 'gross stuff.' Dark humor aside, animal anatomy and physiology is not only fascinating, but tells the detailed story of an animal's life. Bobbie and I drove to Bozeman to work in a lab where fur trappers had turned over the carcasses of bobcats from the previous season's harvest.  Our job was to collect DNA and stomach content to determine what these guys were up to prior to trapping. We learned some exciting stuff! We marveled at the size of some of these cats (we're talking thirty five pounds!) and discussed at length how beautiful they must have been. We also honed our scalpel skills in the process, and I was able to practice things I learned when I worked at the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh, NC doing rodent DNA collection and specimen preparation. Bobbie and I continue to work well together and enjoy each other's company, regardless of location.

The trapping process is very sad, as the cats are not trapped in your Have-A-Heart traps, but with conibear traps. Conibear traps trap an animal by holding the foot/feet in a stronghold that usually breaks the bone (so if you catch the wrong animal, the animal might not survive if released). Here is a picture I found online of a lynx trapped using a conibear trap:

While this is not the kind of picture I enjoy posting, it is something people may otherwise not know happens every year, all over the country. Bobbie and I worked diligently throughout the day on thirty bobcat necropsies, and although the information we gathered was both exciting and relevant, it was constantly on our minds that these animals died for their fur. What does this mean for resident bobcat populations? What kind of impact will this have on their survival in fifty, or two hundred years? How long did each animal suffer? Why do people want to wear fur when that animal probably suffered immense pain for several hours, or possibly froze to death in snowy states, prior to being shot for it's skin? While these questions and the opinions in this website reflect only that of my own conscious, it is a strong point I hope anyone can understand. The beautiful thing about science is that good can come from almost any situation, and that action can be taken from the results.