Trappers ‘in awe’ of fur prices

By Tim
Spielman
Associate Editor

Bruno, Minn. – It’s been a while since Minnesota trappers have
been this well compensated. But rejuvenated demand for fur in China
and Russia, as well as other countries overseas, has this year made
trapping state furbearers a profitable venture.

‘With the exception of raccoons, prices (for the pelts of
furbearers) have doubled and in some cases, tripled,’ said Gary
Meis, president of the Minnesota Trappers Association. ‘We’re in
awe of what’s happening.

‘We’re seeing prices we haven’t seen since the late ’70s to
early ’80s and trappers are smiling all the way to the bank,’ he
said.

Right now, trappers are focusing on the remaining ‘good’ weeks
of the beaver-trapping season. While that season runs through the
middle of May, most trapping wraps up in late April, because of the
rapidly declining quality of the pelts, Meis said.

‘The fur is much weaker as spring progresses,’ he said.

Still, he suspects an impressive harvest of beaver this spring.
That’s in part because while trappers were able to get about $18
per pelt last year, the price has been $30 or better, on average,
this year.

Why the price increase in beaver, as well as other furbearer
hides? The fur market is driven by overseas demand, specifically in
Russia, where fur is much more a necessity than a luxury, Meis
said, and in Asia, where ‘they have really gotten into fur,’ he
said.

While the demand for raccoon has remained relatively stable,
trappers are enjoying much better prices for other pelts than they
were a year ago.

For example, pine marten and fisher furs were drawing about $35
per pelt last year. This year, fishers are bringing closer to $80,
while martens are bringing around $100 each.

Fox and coyote also have seen a jump in price, and this year
sold in the $25 to $30 range. ‘People were hitting those articles
hard,’ Meis said.

Muskrats, long a staple of Minnesota trap lines, were selling
for as little as a couple dollars each the past few years. This
year, good ‘rats brought between $5 and $7, Meis said.

One MTA member from the Northome area caught nearly 1,500
muskrats this year, Meis said, ‘And he left plenty of ‘seed’ for
next year, too,’ he said.

A couple other examples: Mink last year sold for $10 to $12
each; this year, the price was about $20 per pelt. Otter pelts
doubled, too, from about $50 to $60 each to around $130 this
year.

‘China can’t get enough otter,’ Meis said. ‘And now other
countries are bidding against them.’

After this year, trappers in Minnesota are left wondering how
long the boom will last.

‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ Meis said. ‘Time will tell.

‘But what I’ve been hearing are things like, ‘Man, I wish I
wouldn’t have sold my traps,’ or ‘Boy, I’m sure glad I didn’t sell
my traps,’ ‘ he said.

Last year, with rising pelt prices, the number of licensed
trappers in the state reached about 6,000, Meis said. He expects
the good prices to result in a couple more thousand to enter the
game by fall.

Generally speaking, Meis said most furbearer species in the
state are doing well, population-wise. Only muskrat numbers seem to
be lower than they were 10 or more years ago.

Meis said good management is to thank for healthy furbearer
numbers – management practiced by the DNR and practiced by the
2,300 or so MTA members.

Conrad Christianson, furbearer specialist for the DNR, agrees
that furbearers are doing well, with the exception of some
individual ‘issues.’ The department practices more strict control
of species like beaver, otter, fisher, and marten because they have
‘limited ranges and are not real strong producers,’ he said.

The fisher and pine marten seasons were open for less than a
month and closed in December. The otter season, opened Oct. 29 last
year and closed Jan. 8. Beaver, mink, and muskrat seasons all
opened that same day, but ‘rat and mink trapping closed Feb. 28,
while beaver season continues to May 15.

Beaver trappers who accidentally catch otters are required to
report such takes to the DNR, and submit the otters. Meis said his
group is working to educate trappers on how to avoid such
accidental catches.

In some cases, good fur prices have been accompanied by a degree
of greed. COs have reported that high otter prices may be reducing
the number of accidental takes reported, and such takes could be
saved and sold next year.

Categories: Hunting News

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