As the Illinois trapping season nears – it opens Nov. 10 statewide – I’m reminded that the last couple of years have been pretty tough on wild fur. Already reeling from historic low ranch mink prices, COVID hit the market very hard, almost bringing the use of wild fur in China (our largest market) to a standstill.
That, combined with increased tariffs back and forth between the U.S. and China, as well as sanctions on Russia since 2014 over the annexation of Crimea, meant much of our wild fur was not getting to the end users who wanted fur garments. Canada Goose, through their popular coyote-lined parkas, was providing a lifeline for North American wild fur by creating a hot demand for most of the coyote fur produced by trappers. As we saw last winter, when Canada Goose decided not to use wild-caught fur for parka trim, that market evaporated overnight, leaving the eastern parts of the U.S. with mostly worthless coyotes.
Then in 2022 with the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, Russia has been nearly eliminated entirely from the fur industry. That’s a blow – maybe not as severe as it once was, but still not good for the wild fur industry.
Most of the year ranch mink sales and prices, a reliable harbinger of wild fur prices, remained historically low.
What about 2023 prices?
The Midwest, particularly the southernmost areas, is going to find it tough this year. Of the bread and butter items – raccoon, coyote, muskrats, and beavers – beaver is the only bright spot.
Unless the rank mink prices begin to advance substantially, there will be a limited market for muskrat. Don’t expect the current $2 or so price to advance. Obviously, wild mink will also remain low, or unsaleable, unless ranch mink go higher.
The Midwest will have very few marketable coyotes. Most coyotes in this area will grade out a more commercial eastern type. Many of these eastern coyote are also dark (or reddish) and coarse which is not anywhere what the market wants.
Only the Upper Midwest will have raccoon that will sell consistently. Southern and eastern raccoon, with that short knap, just are not desirable. Most sizes and grades may not find a buyer. Put up only very prime, white leather skins.
Beaver will sell all day – just remember they sell at hatter prices (although prices should be about double last year). Castor is holding at historic prices and some folks can also find a market for the meat (beaver meat is a wonderful addition to the table. Roast beaver tastes like roast beef to me). Otter have also advanced.
Illinois-based Groenewold Fur and Wool will be paying a top of $40 – $10 or so higher than last year.
Unfortunately, the best red fox in the country are produced in the east. The Midwest just doesn’t produce the really clear cherry reds the market is after. Still, there is more interest than in the last few years, so who knows?
Skunks, as I often note, are always a commercial success. Skin the pelts with the feet on for the novelty market –
especially the ones with wide white stripes. Learn to draw the essence.
It sells readily to the lure makers for $15 to $18 an ounce, and I’ve
seen some skunks with the better part of an ounce. Even the meat or fat
may have a marker to lure and bait makers.
Where Can I Sell?
You’ve got about four choices this year, none of them great.
First, there are a few local and regional buyers out there that are still
buying. If you’ve got one, great. Since fur is really low anyway,
wherever you sell, you might offer your fur to your local guy.
He’s going to have a hard go of it this year and you might want to help him
out, especially if it’s not going to cost you much. Be advised, buyers
are going to be very picky about what they buy.
You can also sell to Groenewold, a national buyer in Forreston that will be
running routes in the Midwest this year. They are just now starting to
put some of the routes online. Many will not be posted until later in
the fall and winter as the market is hard to predict right now. I know
they want every beaver they can get their hands on. Otters, too.
You also can still send your fur off to auction. The only auction outlet at
this point is Fur Harvesters Auction. They also will be running routes
this year, although they will likely be less extensive than previous
If you don’t see a stop listed anywhere near you, call the Illinois agents listed on
the FHA website (Mike Volkers or Ryan Rule). They can likely figure out
some way to meet up.
Note that unlike your other options, once you ship your fur off, it’s gone.
You will get a check when –or if – your fur sells. You also will be
charged for each time you shipped (I believe it’s $12 each time).
If you have long-haired fur like fox and coyote, you will be charged to
have them tumbled (thereby cleaning and fluffing up the fur). You also
will be charged a sellers commission (11%). Factor all this in before
you sell or ship to see where you can get the best price.
Lastly, almost every state association sponsors fur sales. Illinois is no
exception. The Illinois Trappers Association has recently had a sale in
Strasburg, at the Krile Auction House, every year in February. Details
are not yet available but watch this space.
They will typically have 8 to 10 buyers, so there will be a bit of
competition. Prices are usually decent – they were higher than the
market in most cases last year.
I noticed last year that the association sales all over the Midwest
seemed to bring all-round better prices than selling at the FHA.
Consider them this year.
Join a state association and likely you’ll get a discount on seller fees as well. Join regardless – they need the help.