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Is unreliable science guiding bobcat management in Wyoming and other western US states?

Bobcat Management Report

For Immediate Release

January 7, 2022

Media Contacts: Wyoming Untrapped: Loren Taylor,
Panthera: Susie Weller Sheppard, (347) 446-9904,

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Review finds flaws in methods estimating Wyoming’s bobcat population and other states, with concern population overestimates justify exploitation

Jackson, WY – A new scientific publication titled, “Is unreliable science guiding bobcat management in Wyoming and other western US states?,” in Ecological Solutions and Evidence suggests unreliable scientific methods are currently informing abundance estimates and management of bobcat populations in the western United States. The study was carried out by the University of Kentucky, Wyoming Untrapped, and Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization.

A significant and unexplained spike in bobcat population size estimates after 2003 triggered the collaborative scientific review of the statistical population reconstruction (SPR) model that is guiding Wyoming and other western United States bobcat management.

Lead author and University of Kentucky researcher, Dr. Sean Murphy, stated, “The substantial increase in bobcat abundance estimates in Wyoming after 2003 was inexplicable and did not reflect observed trends in bobcat harvests, prey populations or numbers of trappers on the landscape. Our investigation found that the increase in abundance estimates was primarily influenced by a transition in who was responsible for determining the age and sex of trapped bobcats. In this case, the switch from state agency biologists to the trappers themselves.”

Researchers found that this change likely resulted in multiple violations of the SPR model and, consequently, inflated bobcat abundance estimates across Wyoming, potentially by as many as 9,000 animals per year. Bobcats are hunted recreationally and also widely trapped for their pelts, which are sourced to international markets for spotted furs.

Wyoming Untrapped Executive Director, Loren Taylor, stated, “All agencies with jurisdictional management authority have a responsibility to both wildlife, in this case bobcats, and the public to ensure data integrity when utilizing such information to justify setting harvest limits or allowing hunting and trapping.”

The authors concluded that the long-term trends produced by the SPR model are only as reliable as the underlying harvest data, which are inconsistent and highly variable across the West, and more specifically over the last 14 years of data collection (2003–2017) in Wyoming.

Statistical Population Reconstruction is a model increasing in popularity among wildlife agencies in the United States to create population estimates from hunting and trapping data. However, when harvest data violate SPR assumptions, which they almost always will for cryptic carnivores, such as bobcats, the model produces flawed estimates that could misguide management.

Panthera Puma Program Director, Dr. Mark Elbroch, stated, “This push to estimate bobcats quickly and poorly is worrying because it appears to be a means of justifying status quo management and current bobcat exploitation. We would rather see wildlife agencies develop new strategies based on the inclusion of diverse perspectives, including those people who value carnivores as necessary components of healthy ecosystems.”

The researchers recommend that a far more effective and informative approach for carnivore population monitoring and management decision-making is integrated population models (IPM), which can utilize multiple types of data (camera surveys and harvest data) and provide managers with not just abundance estimates, but the demographic drivers underlying changes in abundance as well.

Dr. Murphy concluded, “Most U.S. states rely on harvest data for monitoring bobcat populations, but those data are often replete with inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and rarely reflect true population sizes of bobcats or other carnivores. By applying more structured and rigorous approaches to surveying and estimating bobcat populations within an adaptive management framework, which integrated population models are well-suited for, we hope to see a robust and diverse bobcat population across the mountain West.”

About Wyoming Untrapped

Wyoming Untrapped is dedicated to creating a safe and humane environment for people, pets and wildlife through education, trapping regulation reform, and compassionate coexistence.

About University of Kentucky, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources was established in 1969 as part of the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The Department’s mission is to enhance the ecological, economic, and social benefits of forests and related natural resources to elevate the quality of life for Kentuckians and beyond. Visit

About Panthera

Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards, tigers and the 33 small cat species and their vast landscapes. In 39 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours. Visit



  • Rene Hersey

    This is a significant update, it reaffirms the need for constant oversight of all wildlife. I keep hearing in MT governor saying that his commissioners will determine when they should stop shooting Wolves, and they make policies with ARM (Administrative Rules Montana) who are complicit with trappers setting legislation for all the predators and Bison too, but where are the biologists at the table? Without oversight by experienced wildlife biologist they’ll have more than just blood on their hands.

    • Wyoming Untrapped

      Thanks, Rene. Wyoming Governor Gordon appoints our Commissioners during his term. He has appointed three in the last two years. WU recruited two applicants for one of those positions in Cody, a retired biologist, and a naturalist who has published several books in regard to wildlife. Both are highly qualified to add a diverse perspective to the wildlife management decisions. Neither was chosen. We will continue to give it our best effort!

  • Charles Fox

    I implore you and any other wildlife advocates to stop using the words “hunt” and “harvest”. These benign sounding words are euphemisms, the language of abuse.

    The words to use here are “kill” and “slaughter”.

    • Wyoming Untrapped

      Hi Charles, Thanks for reminding us of the use of “harvest” and the need for replacements…although in this case, even kill and slaughter may not be strong enough. In 2017, we posted a blog about the need to change words: WU has always pushed to redefine conservation at its core, starting eight years ago when the word “trapping” was rarely used at all in our state (hidden under the radar). Today, “hunting and trapping” are the chosen phrase for conversations. I personally believe that brutal and inhumane traps and snares have no place on our planet. We should eliminate those two words from our vocabulary as well.Thanks for your support, and exhausting effort for our wild neighbors. We are giving it all we’ve got!

  • Charles Fox

    Dear WU,

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I did read the article you referenced above.

    The United States was created through centuries of genocide and enslavement driven by greed, indifference, and spectacular violence that continues to this day. It may be too late to change these cultural norms but I think we should continue to try to redefine humans’ abusive relationship with the natural world. I don’t think we can change the exploitation paradigm without linguistic changes. Trapping is literally crushing, maiming, and torturing animals to death and that reality should be reflected in the language we use. “Hunting” is a mythological term and sounds like a wholesome, “time-honored tradition”. Recreational wildlife killing is the reality. The activity loses its appeal when it is described accurately.

    As we watch the biosphere be murdered every business-as-usual day, the very least we can do is tell the truth. Let the killers tell their own lies.

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