Trappers not getting rich

Hudson, Ill. – Paul Kelly is in his late 60s, but he has little
trouble recalling the day in his childhood when he walked up to one
of his dad’s old traps to find a riled-up mink caught in its
grip.

It was one of those days a kid never forgets.

“If I close my eyes,_I can see it like I was still right there,”
Kelly, president of the Illinois Trappers Association, said. “That
mink was throwing a fit, and I was so excited it took me awhile to
figure out what to do with him.”

To Kelly and generations of Illinois trappers, the thrill of a
successful trap set is about all they have to look forward to in
the 2009-10 season. Fur prices look to be down for the second
consecutive year, as economies in Russia and China – the two major
buyers of American furs – putter along.

Many of the state’s 3,000 or so licensed trappers are hard at it
again this year, but low fur prices tend to curb some of the
enthusiasm felt in past trapping seasons.

Still, Kelly said he was pleasantly surprised when a
larger-than-expected crowd turned out for the ITA’s annual
convention, held in_Anna the first weekend of October.

“Not only was there a good turnout, they were doing a lot of
buying from the vendors we had,” he said. “It surprised me to see,
when it looks like prices are going to be down again, that they
were spending money on trapping equipment and supplies.”

While the North American Fur Auction – the primary company that
purchases furs trapped in Illinois – has not released any price
projections, early predictions have raccoon pelts going for $8 to
$12, which is in line with last year’s prices.

Kelly said two years ago raccoon pelts averaged $36 to $38.

“The buyers are still sitting on fur they bought last year, and
the demand doesn’t look to be there right now,” Kelly said.

The ITA will have two of its own fur auctions this winter. The
first ones will be Jan. 9 in Odell and Jan. 27 in Fairfield.

“We don’t know what to expect, but we do know that some people
will still trap no matter what the prices,” Kelly, who trapped 50
raccoons last season and donated them to the ITA, said. “And that’s
good for the state, because these furbearers reproduce, and without
trapping, they would get overpopulated and that would cause all
kinds of problems.”

One bright spot in the furbearer market this year might be
muskrats, Kelly predicted.

“But the bad news is that we don’t have as many as we used to,”
he said. “It used to be that I could trap 40 or 50 in a day. Now, a
guy is lucky to get that many in a season.”

Illinois’ trapping seasons are under way. Trapping for muskrat,
mink, raccoon, opossum, striped skunk, weasel, red and gray fox,
coyote and badger ends in the north zone on Jan. 20; in the south,
Jan. 25.

Trapping for beaver ends statewide on March 31.

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