A proposal to open a new fur farm outside of Roy that would house bobcats in 4-by-6 pens before the animals are harvested for their pelts is prompting outrage from animal rights activists.
“As an animal rights activist, I know what goes on at fur farms,” says Missoula County resident Kathleen Stachowski, who operates OtherNationsJustice.org, a website dedicated to raising awareness about animal cruelty. “The general public, for the most part, doesn’t understand.”
In July, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks invited public comment on a fur farm proposed by Larry Schultz for the central Montana town, located 35 miles northeast of Lewistown. According to FWP’s environmental assessment, bobcats would live in breeding and weaning pens with attached nesting boxes “at all times.”
In the wild, mature bobcats inhabit territories of up to 30 square miles and weigh an average of 20 pounds. Stachowski says they are sensitive animals, unable to handle lifetime confinement. “They think and feel and experience emotions just like we do,” she says.
In fact, Schultz says it’s the animals’ sensitivity that’s prompting him and his wife to move their business from Arnegard, N.D, about 30 miles south of Williston. The noise caused by nearby oil drilling disturbs the bobcats, he says, and “the mothers kill their babies.”
After FWP’s comment period opened, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups, including In Defense of Animals and Project Bobcat, issued alerts urging opponents to contact FWP.
FWP’s Mike Lee says the agency has received roughly 2,000 comments on the farm proposal, as well as an online petition that garnered 12,000 signatures. “That’s a lot for a fur farm,” Lee says.
In its environmental assessment, FWP recommends granting Schultz a permit. Lee notes the agency is soliciting public comment that directly relates to how the farm could affect its physical surroundings, rather than outrage over Schultz’s business itself. Montana law permits such operations. Currently 16 fur farms operate statewide.
In March, radical activists targeted the Fraser Fur Farm in Ronan, which is among the largest in the country. Extremists then attempted to free dozens of bobcats, but according to a release posted online by the Animal Liberation Front they “were run off-site.”
FWP is accepting comments on its environmental assessment through Aug. 29.
OtherNationsJustice.org, Kathleen Stachowski, animal welfare, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Schultz Fur Farm, PETA