As Illinois trapping season nears, fur market shows some movement

Matthew Dwyer, who has trapped for many years in and around the Hennepin Canal area, poses with a 90-pound beaver he caught back in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Hennepin Canal State Park)

I’ve had a number of long talks with Guy Groenewold (Groenewold Fur & Wool – the largest private fur buyer in North America) this year about the fur industry. GFW is interesting because they buy and sell fur every day all year long. This gives them a particularly useful insight about the fur industry at any given point in time (albeit biased by what furs they sell and how they sell them). Auctions give you a snapshop, GFW sales give you a much more nuanced and more accurate picture of what’s happening in the industry on a day to day basis.

Compared to last year and early this year, Groenewold is much more optimistic.

Certainly the latest ranch mink sales are good news. In addition, it is likely that some ranchers will still pelt out this season because, while prices are a bit higher, the cost of production is still much higher that the sale prices in many areas. A shortage of ranch mink should mean higher prices for them, which should also translate for higher prices for wild fur, particularly muskrats.

Last year they hardly sold any raccoon all summer. This year there have been sales – not huge numbers, but at least raccoon are moving some. The raccoons that are selling are from the better sections of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. There is interest in the larger, better furred raccoons. Early caught and damaged will be severely discounted and may not sell at all. Most of the commercial type raccoon is still going to have a tough row to hoe.

A strong hatter beaver market means that GFW will be running buying routes again this year throughout much of the country. I believe that GFW buys most of the beaver in the US and it doesn’t look like that is going to change in the upcoming year. “I’ll be buying beaver aggressively this season. Prices will be double or so of what we paid last year. At this point I want as many as I can get.” stated Groenewold. Remember – these are at hatter prices. No one’s going to get rich on beaver but combined with the historically high castor prices, they are at least worth trapping. I will note that I specifically asked Guy Groenewold about beaver prices on their truck routes for skinned, frozen beaver pelts. Last year he was paying about a $6 average, this year expect a $12 or better average.

In addition to beaver, Groenewold mentioned that sales of otter, fisher, and marten have also been strong, even if the prices have not been so great. Look for these items to have an uptick in prices, particularly at the beginning of the season. If GFW stocks are low, likely everyone else’s is as well so prices will open on these items with little or no carryover in pelts from the previous season. Good news for beaver, marten, and otter trappers.

We also talked some about bobcat prices. While the very best western cats have had a drop in overall prices (at least for the ones that have been sold), what’s interesting to me is how much of an increase there has been on the more commercial types, such as what is commonly caught in the Midwest and southern states. From pre-COVID prices to now, these cats have almost doubled in price. A decent Midwestern cat in 2019 might have gone for $35. Today you are talking $50-$60. That’s good news, especially for the southern states that catch a lot of bobcats.

He is also cautiously optimistic about fox, particularly reds. Last year red fox remained mostly unsold. This year not only is China showing an interest, but GFW also has had buyers outside of China for a change. Granted, these are for reds from better areas (My area in Illinois? Not so much.).

GFW has a market talk on YouTube that was put up in August. Groenewold also did an extensive market talk at the Wisconsin Trappers Association convention in early September that was very well attended. He did video the talk, although I think there were some issues with the quality. Regardless, I believe his plans are to put the up on YouTube in the near future as well. Take a look, they are quite informative and will give you some insight as to where the market appears to be headed.

Check out the next issue of Illinois Outdoor News for a rundown of where we are globally in the fur industry and what to expect regarding fur prices as the Illinois trapping season opens in November

Categories: — — Illinois – Kent Weil

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