The prices being paid for some furbearing animals, like the muskrat pictured above, are the highest many trappers have seen in years.
I used to love to trap. Some of my most fond memories growing up in the Adirondacks involve wading around bug-infested beaver meadows, a packbasket laden with steel traps tugging on my shoulders.
Trapping taught me responsibility and work ethic. I’d get up hours before school to check my sets and then return after, spending my evenings stretching and drying pelts under the dull glow of basement lights.
It also taught me respect for the animals. My brother and I always kept accurate records of animals we harvested to leave seed for the next season, treating it as the management tool it was designed to be.
Later, when I was old enough to drive, my memories are filled with my brother, uncles and I riding along dusty backcountry roads to nowhere, stopping occasionally to trek into the woods to check sets.
It was a constant learning experience and the perfect diversion to all that can lead a teenager astray.
It was also fairly lucrative. I put away a couple thousand dollars my senior year of high school, money I greatly valued during my first year of college.
My now deceased Uncle Eddie used to say: “You’ll always have a dollar in your pocket when you’re trapping.”
And, I always seemed to.
But, over time, I grew away from trapping for a whole host of reasons, time management being one.
Perhaps the single largest reason though was that the bottom fell out of the fur market. While I was never in it for the money, prices offered by fur buyers just didn’t seem to justify taking the pelt.
That, however, is beginning to change.
Prices paid at fur auctions around the state and internationally during the 2011-12 season have been steadily increasing on nearly every furbearer species. Trappers have not seen a return on their investment like this in decades.
In March, the Fur Harvesters Auction held in North Bay, Ontario, saw prices trending upward across the board. Beaver advanced 30 percent over January levels, with an average blanket fetching $44. Otter and muskrat continued to climb as well, with prices averaging $99 and $11.60, respectively.
Land trappers made out too, with red fox fetching $63 on average; grey fox $38; raccoon $14 and coyote a whopping $49. Fisher also fared well at $98 and marten brought a cool $116. Also of interest is that nearly 100 percent of the inventory was purchased, another indication of a healthy market.
That is the type of market I remember from the 1980s, and some trappers I have spoken with are reporting personal bests with price averages.
Fur buyers are attributing the stimulated market to an increase in the use of real fur in fashion trends, especially in foreign markets.
Adding to the surging prices is stronger competition among fur-buying countries due to an increase of new countries entering the marketplace. Previously, countries like Ukraine and Belarus did not have a presence in the bidding process.
From what fur buyers are saying, the surging prices shouldn’t end anytime soon — and next year could be even better. I may just have to dust off the old packbasket.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org