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Trappers Find Better Prices For Fur As 2003 Season Ends

By By Fred Bonner, Outdoors Writer
When the trapping season closed in North Carolina last week many trappers found that their crop of furs was bringing a much better price than the pelts had been bringing in past years. This reflects some of the disdain that many outdoorsmen are showing for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and an increase in the general public's demand for fur clothing.
It isn't just the anti-animal rights group that's showing little respect for the PETA feelings against trapping. Many hard-core wildlife management and conservation organizations are coming out in full support of trapping as both a commercial as well as a wildlife conservation tool.
The well known Ducks Unlimited organization has proven that an increase in predators such as skunks, badgers, foxes and raccoons are partly responsible for the lack of waterfowl populations. The past history of decline in the fur market was part of the reason for the increase in predators because the trappers couldn't get a decent price for their product. Groups such as PETA had made the wearing of fur garments out to be a socially unacceptable thing to do and some trappers were going out of business because they couldn't find a market for their products.
Wildlife managers (particularly waterfowl managers) found that the increasing predator populations were due to the decline in the fur market and the increasing numbers of abandoned farm buildings in the breeding grounds for the waterfowl. These farm buildings were nearing the end of their expected lifetimes and falling into decay. Predators like raccoons, skunks and foxes found these abandoned buildings to be just fine as their homes.
Ducks Unlimited has conducted studies on the effects of predation on waterfowl nest and estimate that predators destroy as many as 95 million duck eggs a year as the hens try and incubate their eggs. This predation has proven to be a major factor in the decline of waterfowl populations.
Hunters and fishermen used to view trapping as a sport on very much the same level as angling and hunting. Trappers who really made very little profit from their endeavors kept on trapping because they found that it was a challenging sport. If they could make a little profit, that was good. If they didn't show much of a profit, they kept on trapping because they enjoyed their sport.
Marco Gibbs from Englehard was one of those dedicated trappers who has kept on trapping in spite of the declining fur market, and he's encouraged to see that this year's fur prices are on the rise. To illustrate this, look at this year's prices for prime pelts.
1. Bobcat $20
2. Mink $10
3. Raccoon $6
4. Otter $60
5. Beaver $6
6. Red Wolf Illegal to trap or sell
7. Timber Wolf $300
8. Gray Fox $8
9. Red Fox $20
10. Coyote $20
11. Muskrat $2.50
It seems that the animal-rights groups will continue their fight against hunting, fishing and trapping. Recent proposals to stop all trapping of otter on Roanoke Island have met with stiff resistance from trappers and fishermen who know that the otter on Roanoke Island are super-abundant at causing problems.
Fishermen (both sport and commercial) have been having problems with these pest going aboard boats and stealing fish and other edible items. Some reports even have these animals breaking into commercial fishing facilities in search of food.
Trappers such as Marco Gibbs feel that should trapping of otter on Roanoke Island be stopped that the otter would really become overpopulated and cause even more problems.
A beautiful example of an animal becoming over-abundant after the price for fur fell off is the beaver. These animals were once abundant across North Carolina with the demand for their fine fur holding steady and causing trappers to search out these animals. As the fur market declined, the beaver began to spread across the state and cause big problems. They dammed streams, flooded farmland and lawns. They cut prime landscaping trees on expensive waterfront homes and just, in general, became a first class nuisance.
Many counties across North Carolina now pay trappers to go onto areas where there are problem beavers and trap the animals. Beaver control specialists are paid to blow up beaver dams and drain the water from flooded areas.
Once the price of beaver pelts reaches a level that makes it worth a trapper's time to catch these animals, the beaver population problem should be resolved. The price on a beaver pelt is as good this year as it's been for some time and this may be good for the fur trapper.
In addition to any monetary gains a trapper might earn by selling fur, some find that their services are in demand from farmers and other large landowners who want certain predators removed from their land. Every year landowners contract with Marco Gibbs and his sons (252-925-6301) to take specified predators off their land by trapping. This added income to the trapper's bank account is welcome and a help in keeping some predators under control.
Sometimes, animals that are not supposed to be trapped wind up with their foot caught in a trap. Red wolves and even medium sized black bear have been caught and released by trappers. In several cases red wolves have been destroyed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after having been trapped in leg hold traps. Some of these wolves were even taken in leg-hold traps that were set by biologists working with the red wolf project.
True conservationists, as opposed to preservationists, realize that fur trappers have a definite part to play in wildlife conservation. By their actions these "civilian" trappers are making the civil servant's trapping job (AKA Predator Control) easier and helping the wildlife conservation cause by removing unwanted predators from the ecosystem.
Fred Bonner is a native of Aurora and is an Eagle Scout, veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a graduate of N.C. State University with a degree in Wildlife Management. He is also a graduate of the National Fish Disease School. He is a former research biologist at the Pamlico Marine Laboratory and is the former editor of Carolina Adventure magazine. He welcomes comments and suggestions and may be reached at 7220 Cleveland School Road, Garner, N.C. 27529 or by e-mail at fbonner@mindspring.com.