Fur prices on the rise in ’13

Kalamazoo, Mich. — Michigan trappers are seeing a jump in fur prices this year for most species, continuing a trend seen in recent years that’s been fueled by overseas buyers.

Matt Johnson, fur sales director for the Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association, said fur prices have steadily increased in recent years, but top pelts from certain species jumped significantly this season.

“Some of the raccoons … have done really, really well, but what I think gets people’s attention is the muskrats,” Johnson told Michigan Outdoor News.

Muskrat pelts sold for an average of about $13 per animal at the association’s fur sales around the state this year, a sizeable increase over last year’s average of roughly $10 apiece, he said. Michigan set high prices at its first fur sale in Clare in December – one of the first in the nation – where muskrats sold for over $15 each and some fetched far more, Johnson said.

“That’s crazy good,” he said, adding that muskrat prices have been creeping up in recent years from a more typical average of $5 to $7 per fur.

“Our top muskrat went for over $27,” Johnson said. “I’ve sold a lot of mink for less than that.”

Prices for other species are up, as well, he said, although less dramatically than muskrats.

“We’re seeing across-the-board averages going up,” he said.

The high-dollar sales are generating interest from out-of-state sellers and trappers. The prices also have increased sales volume at the MTPCA events and others – both by encouraging more trappers to get into the woods and by convincing many to sell locally, rather than to ship their pelts to large fur auctions in Canada.

“We’ve had quite a few people from neighboring states join our association so they could sell at our fur sales because prices were just so good,” Johnson said. “We’re probably averaging around 70 or 80 lot numbers, so 70 or 80 trappers in one place on one day.”

The stellar sales are the by-product of increased interest from overseas buyers in China and Russia who send representatives to Michigan auctions because of the state’s high-quality furs, Johnson said.

“We don’t produce the most, but we have a wide variety of everything,” he said. “The Muskegon rivershed raccoon produces some of the best of the best as far as color selection. We also have really good muskrat color and quality.”

Willard Prey, owner of Prey’s Raw Furs in Attica, said, “In the last month there has been a big demand … from Russia” for furs, something he believes is linked in part to the region’s winter weather.

“The cold weather over there seems to really help,” said Prey, who buys furs for brokers overseas. “The colder the weather is in Russia and China, the faster the fur moves.”

Prey believes high prices for Michigan muskrat and other species are following the value of ranch-raised mink, which he said tends to set the bar for fur prices.

“That’s keeping the prices up on the wild mink and muskrat,” he said.

Muskrat prices have steadily increased over the past few seasons, Prey said, but this year’s increases have been far more dramatic than most.

“Five years ago, the muskrats were probably $5 for the very best,” he said. “Ten years ago, a top muskrat was worth $2.50 or even $2.”

Prey said that while prices have been excellent for all species, he’s been particularly impressed by what some raccoons pelts are fetching.

“The raccoons in the last month or so have just skyrocketed,” he said. “They were going for $8 to $10 for the best … but in the last month they’ve jumped to as much as $30.”

Despite the encouraging market value for Michigan muskrats, Prey said he’s concerned the population may be showing signs that the annual harvest is taking a toll. It’s been obvious in recent years that muskrats are not reproducing as well as they have in the past, he said.

“We’re getting bigger and bigger rats all the time,” Prey said, adding that the muskrats harvested are older on average than they used to be.

“It just seems like the muskrats are not reproducing,” he said.

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