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John Hollenhorst ReportingFur trappers headed for the hills and mountains today for the kickoff of Utah's two-month trapping season. This year state officials are cracking down to reduce the toll on Bobcats.
They're smaller than a Mountain Lion, bigger than a house-cat -- veteran outdoorsmen rarely see bobcats. State Wildlife officials have only one videotape; they taped it when it was released from a trap.
This is the time of year when hundreds of trappers go out looking for them.
Paul Davis, Utah Div of Wildlife Resources: "The desert areas are good, mountainous areas where there's not a whole lot of snow."
Wildlife official Paul Davis took us into bobcat country to show us how a trap is set. It's usually along an obvious animal trail, the trap carefully concealed under dirt waiting for a tiny foot to trigger the release.
Evans figures bobcats will be the trapper's number one choice this year because their value has skyrocketed.
Paul Davis, Utah Div. of Wildlife Resources: "A good bobcat's going to be two, three, 400 dollars."
Historically beaver was the trapper's choice, when beaver-fur hats were the rage in Europe and when Mountain Men roamed the West. Now bobcat fur is the rage while a Beaver pelt is worth a measly 12 bucks.
Paul Davis, Utah Div. of Wildlife Resources: "How often do you see beaver hats anymore? Not too often. Now everything, the fashion is the bobcat; the bobcat bellies, and that's about all they want off the bobcat."
The really valuable part of the bobcat is the belly, beautiful white fur with some spots. You get enough of those, you can make a 10,000 dollar fur coat.
Mike Fowlks, Utah Div. of Wildlife Resources: "There's going to be tremendous pressure to get out there and catch a lot of bobcats."
To protect the bobcat population, the state shortened the trapping season by two weeks. Each trapper's limit was cut from eight bobcats to six. And there's a statewide law enforcement action plan to make sure limits are obeyed.
Paul Davis, Utah Div. of Wildlife Resources: "We can definitely see that a problem could start and we're nipping it in the bud before it gets out of control."
1600 trappers have obtained permits to go after the now fashionable bobcat. The trapping season that started today will end February 15th.