Trapper tip: How to freeze a bobcat
Let’s say you were one of the lucky recipients of a 2022 bobcat permit. I say lucky. Because I am not – this is my seventh lottery and I have yet to draw a tag. So, like I said, lucky. Oh, well, the head furbearer biologist for the DNR also has never drawn one either.
If you received a permit and successfully tagged a cat (you may also salvage and tag a roadkill bobcat as well – it just counts as your one cat bag limit), you must apply for a CITES permit within 48 hours. This can be done anywhere that sells hunting or fishing licenses (Walmart for example). It will cost you $5 plus an additional $4 processing fee. This exorbitant processing fee for all licenses and permits is thanks to our previous governor who privatized the licensing and permitting system instead of leaving it to the DNR to run in-house. Remember 50 cent processing fees?
We’ll assume you hunted or trapped a bobcat and are now wondering what to do with it. If you are putting it up for the fur trade, you’ll be skinning, fleshing and drying it. If you want to have it mounted you’ll want to freeze it whole. You might also want to skin it to have it tanned (or sell green). In all cases, you’ll still need to wait for your CITES tag in order to do anything else with your bobcat.
It can sometimes take a couple of weeks to get the plastic CITES tag (it looks kind of like a short, heavy zip tie). Once you have the proof of application for a CITES tag you are legal but with some restrictions. For example, you cannot transport an untagged cat to a taxidermist, move it out of state, or send it through the mail. Whether you are keeping it whole or skinning the cat, if you freeze it you might run into some difficulties inserting the tag once it arrives.
Before freezing a whole cat you’ll want to skin (carefully!) from the corner of the eye, taking extreme care (particularly if the cat is going to a taxidermist) not to nick the eyelid or any skin, down to the upper jaw (coming out between the top teeth and the lip). This will provide an open channel between the eye and the inside of the upper jaw and cheek. You are going to want to put some kind of a spacer here before you freeze the cat. If I’m thinking ahead, I’ll have a plastic straw and a pencil on hand. Slip the pencil inside the straw and then slip the straw into the channel you just made. The pencil keeps the straw from collapsing but is easily removed once the cat is frozen. Once received, slip the tag through the straw and you’re done. Effortlessly and with zero cuss words.
You can do the same thing with a skinned bobcat as well. Obviously if your bobcat is fleshed and dried, everything is easy to get to when it comes time to attach the CITES tag. Just run the tag through the eye hole and out the mouth and you’re finished. Your bobcat is now ready to transport wherever you wish.
I might note that if you are freezing your bobcat whole you might want to dampen a few paper towels and wrap the head (especially eyes, ears, and lips) and the feet. Curl the cat up and put it in a heavy plastic bag, and squeezing out all the air you can before sealing. This will keep the parts that tend to dry out and freezer burn much moister. Your taxidermist will love you for this and will likely result in a better mount.
Even if you are freezing it skinned to have tanned, if you skinned out the feet wrapping them with a moist paper towel before putting it in a bag and freezing will give your tanner more leeway when they are working on the feet.
Regardless of how you freeze it, take it out of the bag if you need to thaw it out. Leaving it in a plastic bag to thaw just begs to have sot (such as the ears) slip the fur and damage the pelt.
If you want to read more about Illinois’ bobcat season, take a look at the upcoming issue of Illinois Outdoor News.