Improved coyote pelts, new otter season boosted trapping permits

Springfield — The quality of fur found on coyote pelts in the state continues to improve, pushing up prices buyers are willing to pay.

In turn, more trappers seem to be taking interest in going after the wiley predator.

According to the most recent Illinois Fur Harvest Survey, sales of coyote pelts increased 124 percent last year, with an average value of $17.60 per pelt.

Pelts of high quality fetched far more than that, noted John Wilson, an Illinois Receiving agent for North American Fur Auctions an a DNR Furbearer Fund Committeeman.

“We had a lot of coyotes last year that brought $100 and some that brought even more than that,” said Wilson, who is based in Freeport. “In recent years, the fur quality of coyotes here seems to be getting better, and buyers are willing to pay for it.”

Wilson, who is preparing for the 33rd annual trappers’ Fall Rendezvous Sept. 28-29 at the Carroll County Fairgrounds in Milledgeville, said he read the Fur Harvest Survey and agrees with the report.

“There seems to be a growing interest in trapping for all furbearers in the state, and there are a number of reasons,” he said. “One thing is education. Many people who used to trap in the southern part of the state kind of gave up because they didn’t think pelts were worth anything. Once we educated them on some changes in the market, many are getting interested again. We’re seeing that all over the state now, north and south.”

Last season’s inaugural river otter season deserves partial credit for the bump in trapping permit sales. There were 6,384 permits sold for the 2012-13 season, compared to 4,996 sold in 2011-12.

The Fur Harvest Survey, which is organized by DNR’s Furbearer Biologist Bob Bluett, estimates that there were 200,913 pelts sold last season, an increase of 11 percent from 2011-12.The value of pelts sold was $2.5 million, an increase of 62 percent.

Raccoon and muskrat accounted for 86 percent of the total harvest and 80 percent of its value.

“Favorable global markets lifted pelt prices to levels not seen since the late 1970s and early 1980s,” Bluett noted.

Trappers last year harvested 2,002 river otter pelts, slightly above what DNR predicted heading into the season. Bluett added that trappers targeting river otters also tended to catch beavers. As a result, the number of beavers trapped last year increased by 67 percent.

Pelt sales during 2012-13 were similar to long-term averages for striped skunk, raccoons and badgers. Sales exceeded historic averages for beaver (203 percent) and coyote (165 percent) but lagged for muskrat (23 percent), mink (15 percent), opossum (23 percent), red fox (21 percent), gray fox (4 percent) and weasel (16 percent). Wilson said he expects the interest in trapping to continue to grow as pelt prices rise and furbearers thrive in the state.

Among the presenters he has lined up for the Fall Rendezvous is Mark June, a re-known coyote trapper from Nebraska who will share his tricks and tips.

“It will be a good way to get ready for the seasons,” Wilson said.

For information on the Rendezvous, call 815-232-8059.

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