Freeport, Ill. — Was it a “sophomore jinx” or did river otters wise up to Illinois trappers? Whatever the cause, a total of 1,303 river otters were taken during the 2013-14 trapping season, a 35 percent drop from the 2,002 taken during the inaugural otter season of 2012-13.
Trappers selling otter pelts also saw a drop in prices paid for them. According to DNR, the average price for an otter pelt sold in Illinois last year was $57.10, down from the average $73.30 paid in 2012-13.
Despite the second-year decreases for otters, trappers continue to appear energized by the relatively new trapping season. In fact, overall results from last year show an increase in the number of furbearer pelts harvested and sold. The data comes from DNR’s annual Illinois Fur Harvest Survey report and is based on information provided by most of the state’s 181 licensed fur buyers.
According to the report, trappers and hunters sold nearly 15 percent more furbearer pelts last season compared to the year before. The value of the 230,020 pelts sold in the state was put at more than $2.7 million. As for specifics, coyote trappers and hunters had the biggest increase, producing an astonishing 62 percent more pelts last year, selling 16,607 at an average price of $20.80. In 2012-13, there were 10,246 coyote pelts sold at an average of $17.60.
Interestingly, the biggest jump came from trappers and hunters of the lowly opossum. Pelt sales for the ornery critter jumped 97 percent – from 3,833 pelts in 2012-13 to 7,550 pelts in 2013-14. This despite a price drop from $1.35 per pelt in 2012-13 to $1.25 per pelt last year.
And if you think opossum takers are dedicated, consider the trappers who went through the trouble of preparing the total of six weasel pelts sold in the state last year – a decrease from the seven sold in 2012-13 – for a whopping average of 65 cents per pelt.
On the other end of the spectrum, raccoon pelts accounted for 85 percent of the total fur harvest and 79 percent of the value. According to DNR, a total of 169,543 raccoon pelts were sold in 2013-14, compared to the 139,879 sold in 2012-13. Trappers can’t get all of the credit for the raccoon harvest, however. Just as they did the year before, hunters accounted for the same proportion of the raccoon harvest – 49 percent.
Other results of the 2013-14 season:
n Sales of trapping licenses increased from 6,384 in 2012-13 to 7,870 in 2013-14. This was the greatest number of licenses sold since 1988-89.
n Pelt sales during 2013-14 were similar to long-term averages (since 1975-76) for striped skunk (105 percent) and raccoon (94 percent). Sales exceeded historic averages for beaver (139 percent), coyote (256 percent) and badger (142 percent). Sales lagged for muskrat (18 percent), mink (18 percent), opossum (46 percent), red fox (26 percent), gray fox (3 percent) and weasel (14 percent).
Red fox trapping and hunting in the state received a boost last season, as pelt sales went from 923 in 2012-13 to 1,134 in 2013-14. The average price paid for those pelts also slid upward from $29.95 to $33.70.
Muskrats, which had been riding a high in recent years, hit a bump in the road last season. The number of pelts sold in the state dropped by 22 percent, from 32,453 in 2012-13 to 25,122 in 2013-14. The average price paid for a muskrat pelt by Illinois buyers also fell, from $9.65 to $8.90.
Beaver pelt prices remained somewhat steady at an average of $13.45 – that mark was $13.95 the year before – but the number of pelts sold dropped by nearly one third. A total of 6,690 beaver pelts were sold in Illinois last year, compared to the 9,708 sold the year before.
Mink harvest remained low at 1,389, but it was an increase over the 1,193 taken in 2012-13. Trappers got an average of $15.05, down $1.75 from the previous year’s average.
There were 573 striped skunks sold in 2013-14 (up from 544) at an average price of $2.95 (down 35 cents).
Only 44 badgers were taken last year, but that was six more than the year before. The average price for an Illinois badger pelt jumped to $10.70 after coming in at $9.45 in 2012-13.
Illinois’ furbearer hunting and trapping seasons opened Nov. 5 in the north zone and Nov. 10 in the south zone. Trapping seasons wrap up Jan. 20 and Jan. 25, respectively, while hunting seasons have various end dates.
The beaver and river otter trapping season runs through March 31, while the spring mink and muskrat trapping seasons run through Feb. 15.