Trapping Today’s 2014-15 Fur Market Forecast

It’s that time of year again.  Days are getting shorter, the weather is cooling and trappers are preparing to take to the field and catch some fur.  As always, questions about this year’s fur market and prices abound.  Here’s what we can gather about the market and what trappers might expect this season.

Last year’s slump

At the end of last year’s fur selling season, most trappers were left disappointed with their fur checks.  Here’s a quote from North American Fur Auctions:

The selling season we have just experienced has been one of the most challenging in a long time, primarily due to one of the warmest winters on record in China, Russia and Europe.  The warm temperatures had an extremely negative affect on retail sales, with many retailers reporting clearances of 50% or below.

In general, it was a bad season for fur, but not all items did terrible.  Among the worst performing were beaver, raccoon and mink.  These markets were affected by the huge hit in the ranch mink market.

From NAFA:

…ranch mink prices declined up to 70% from the record levels established the previous season.

Last year’s wild fur prices declined 30-70%, depending on the article.  As the season progressed and mink prices continued to decline, the challenge to maintain wild fur prices became more difficult. As a result of a lack of confidence, price levels and clearances were mostly lower in the May sale compared to the February sale. Generally, the longer haired, trimming goods performed well, with good clearances and satisfactory prices, while the short haired varieties or flatter sections that compete with a lower priced ranch mink, suffered in price and clearance.

It appears that mink prices have now stabilized at low levels.  Here’s from Groenewold Fur and Wool:

Ranch mink have stabilized at very low prices and are now being used as a commodity for investment.  They are being introduced in a great percentage of garments this coming season.

These low mink prices may impact muskrat prices as well, which have done very well in recent years.

The cheap mink prices are beginning to affect muskrat demand and prices.  The muskrat plate manufacturers are now finding serious competition due to the availability of cheap mink.  Muskrat still seems to have a demand, but with a big ‘reality check’ from ranch mink.

Last year’s fur price levels

All things being equal, most experts are expecting last year’s price levels to continue into the next fur selling season.  What does this mean specifically?  Let’s take a look at some of last season’s most recent auctions.

Fur Harvesters Auction June 2014 Sale

  • Beaver – $6.89-15.79
  • Wild Mink – $10.75 (most unsold)
  • Otter – $31.74
  • Muskrat – $9.05
  • Fisher – $54.78
  • Red Fox – $22.66
  • Marten – mainly unsold
  • Raccoon – mainly unsold
  • Coyote – $35.29-84.77 (many unsold)

The FHA results mirrored the same market sentiment as the earlier NAFA sales.  However, the latest NAFA auction in September showed more promise, with many of the earlier unsold items selling at improved prices.

North American Fur Auctions September 2014 Fur Sale

  • Muskrat – $7.45
  • Fisher – $74.57
  • Marten – $49.92
  • Beaver – $12.42-14.22 (many unsold)
  • Otter – $55.40 (many unsold)
  • Raccoon – $13.65
  • Coyote – $23.36-72.34
  • Red Fox – $44.55

So, all that being said, what can we expect this coming season?

Fur Market Forecast by Species

The Low Points

Beaver – Expect very poor prices for beaver.  Early and lower quality skins will likely not even sell.  Until demand improves and excess inventory in overseas markets clears, trapping beaver will likely be a losing proposition.

Raccoon – Coon prices will be difficult to predict, but will likely be very low.  Again, low quality, unprime skins will likely not sell at all.

Mink – Expect extremely low prices, primarily driven by the depressed ranch mink market.

Otter – Prices should remain somewhat stable at low levels.

Bright Spots

Coyote – The market for trim goods has remained strong relative to other fur items, and coyote has continued to sell well.  Prices should continue at strong levels.

Red Fox – There is less certainty in the red fox market, which has seen some recent highs.  This seems to be a trendy item.  With cheap mink prices, buyers may see mink as a relative bargain and stop buying fox.  Still, the red fox market might just hold up.

Muskrat – Despite the low mink and beaver prices, muskrat has continued to do well.  Prices may drop some, but we are not likely to see the $2-3 muskrat anytime soon.

Marten and Fisher – Despite somewhat fickle demand, these are specialty items that have held up okay in the low market.  They should still be worth trapping this season.

What’s the message to trappers?

Some trappers target the same species with the same effort year after year, regardless of market conditions.  Trapping more of a hobby for these folks, and prices don’t affect them as much.  Others gauge the level of effort and species they will target based on the market.  These folks might consider the following suggestions:

Don’t target beaver this year unless you can easily catch high quality, prime pelts with minimal effort.

Raccoon trapping will be a gamble.  Not sure I’d take the risk, particularly with low quality skins.

Muskrat should still be well worth targeting.  The minimal effort required makes a $7-10 rat a desirable item for trappers.

If you can, focus effort on dryland canine trapping.  Coyote prices should continue to hold up, and red fox should do okay too.  The same goes for marten and fisher trapping.

Above all else, get out and enjoy yourself on the trapline!  Remember, the fur market can change drastically overnight, so stay tuned for updates throughout the season.

Missouri Trappers Association February 2014 Fur Auctions

Missouri Fur Auction Results

Below are results from the two Missouri Trappers Association fur auctions in February 2014: 

February 8, 2014 Auction

Beaver – $15.12 average, with 94 sold.

Wild Mink$13.17 average, with 26 sold.

Red Fox$36.56 average, with 58 sold.

Gray Fox – $20.20 average, with 10 sold.

Raccoon – $12.89 average, with 2054 sold.

Coyote$17.11 average, with 90 sold.

Muskrat – $9.08 average, with 379 sold.

Possum – $1.82 average, with 153 sold.

Bobcat – $105.85 average, with 42 sold.

Otter – $61.85 average, with 31 sold.

 

February 22, 2014 Auction

Beaver – $15.23 average, with 83 sold.

Red Fox$35.86 average, with 50 sold.

Gray Fox – $25.48 average, with 26 sold.

Raccoon – $14.62 average, with 2381 sold.

Coyote$18.90 average, with 117 sold.

Muskrat – $11.04 average, with 299 sold.

Possum – $1.41 average, with 130 sold.

Bobcat – $125.26 average, with 117 sold.

 

Click here to view the full Missouri Trappers Association February 2014 Fur Auction Results.

 

Nevada Trappers Association February 2014 Fur Auction Results

Nevada_TANevada Fur Auction Results

The Nevada Trappers Association held a fur auction on the weekend of February 21st, 2014.   

Below are some highlights from the auction:

Beaver – $16.46 average, with 181 sold.

Red Fox$47.43 average, with 5 sold.

Gray Fox – $26.33 average, with 1252 sold.

Coyote$32.50 average, with 746 sold.

Muskrat – $8.03 average, with 899 sold.

Bobcat – $420.35 average, with 1802 sold.

Otter – $81.88 average, with 1 sold.

Badger – $14.08 average, with 38 sold.

Kit Fox – $15.12 average, with 314 sold.

Click here to view the full Nevada Trappers Association February 2014 Fur Auction Results.

NAFA Fur Auction Results – February 2014

nafa_bannerNorth American Fur Auctions held their first major fur sale of the year during the last week of February.  This auction is typically an indicator of the state of the fur market and sets the tone for the rest of the fur sale season, though an increasingly unstable fur market has made future predictions of fur prices near impossible.

Here’s a recap:

Coyotes did well, with 100% sold at very strong prices.  The trim market is good, and red fox averages were stellar as well.  Muskrat averaged about the same as last year’s highs, which was great news for ‘rat trappers.  Fisher did well.

Beaver prices were very poor.  The low prices of both beaver and wild mink (which didn’t do great either) are likely tied to a huge drop in ranch mink prices.  Demand for marten was too low for what NAFA considered to be satisfactory prices, and in the best interest of trappers, they held back two thirds of the marten for the May auction, rather than dump them at a low price.

Raccoon and bobcat prices didn’t exactly tank, but were lower than previous levels.  Otter held up okay.

Here are some prices for the top selling fur items:

Muskrat – $11.41 average, 428,402 sold (100%)

Fisher – $115.36 average, 9,826 sold (100%)

Marten – only top 1/3 of furs sold, averages $85-$141

Beaver – averages of $6.10 – $26.82, depending on section, 135,074 sold

Otter – $65.46 average, 11,674 sold

Raccoon – averages of $14.05 – $21.61, depending on section, 490,361 sold

Coyote – averages of $38.45 – $90.67, 72,177 sold

Bobcat – averages of $73.25 – $393.49, depending on section, 6,166 sold

Mink – $21.10 average, 36,429 sold

Red Fox – averages of $47.29 – $56.41, depending on section, 29,062 sold

Click here for the full NAFA report, and prices for all fur items.

 

Antique Trap Collector Guides

Trap_price_guides victortraps-backDo you collect, or have an interest in antique animal traps?  If so, you might want to take a look at Robert Vance’s antique trap price guides.  Vance is an expert on antique traps and he has put together 15 different books containing information and prices of old collectible traps.

Click here to find Vance’s trap price guides at Hutzel Traps.

 

Arkansas Fur Auction Results

atalogo_headerThe Arkansas Trappers Association held a fur auction on February 13, 2014. 

Below are some highlights from the auction:

Beaver – $14.03 average, with 472 sold.

Wild Mink$19.15 average, with 17 sold.

Red Fox$37.82 average, with 25 sold.

Gray Fox – $21.88 average, with 153 sold.

Raccoon – $7.60 average, with 1856 sold.

Coyote$17.01 average, with 106 sold.

Muskrat – $8.92 average, with 84 sold.

Possum – $1.44 average, with 352 sold.

Bobcat – $70.00 average, with 248 sold.

Otter – $61.38 average, with 152 sold.

Click here to view the full Arkansas State Trappers Association February 2014 Fur Auction Results.

Clint Locklear’s PCG and Wolfer Nation

ClintLocklearClint Locklear is a serious trapper.  And he’s a hard worker.  If you have any interest in predator control trapping you’d be well served to visit Clint’s world on the internet.  Predator Control Group is the home of Locklear’s predator trapping business where he offers professional control services and instruction.  It’s also a portal to Wolfer Nation, a site dedicated to predator control trapping and much more.  Among the site’s various features are Trapper Nation – a Facebook-like community for trappers, Trapping Radio – a collection of over 100 trapping podcasts, a video predatorcontrolgroupwolfer-nation-predator-control-groupmagazine, trapping blog, and the new Trapping TV.  It’s a lot to take in all at once, so take your time and visit PCG and Wolfer Nation.  It’s sure to remain a valuable source of information for predator trappers well into the future.

Predator Control Group

Wolfer Nation

Walter A. Gibbs: Trapper, Inventor, Entrepeneur

wagibbsandsonsThe muskrat fur trade was big business in the early 1900′s, and Walter A. Gibbs of Dorchester County, Maryland used ambition and ingenuity to build a legacy in the trapping industry as a result.  Not only did he catch thousands of muskrats for the fur market, he also developed innovative traps and techniques and pioneered the trade in live muskrats.

W.A. Gibbs was a railroad retiree when he bought 650 acres of Maryland marshland for duck hunting.  He soon discovered the potential the marsh held for muskrat trapping and it wasn’t long before he was a full time ‘rat trapper.  Gibbs was an inventive man, and soon began designing and patenting his own traps to more effectively catch muskrats.  He designed the Two Trigger, 111, Hawk, Dope and Single Grip traps among others.

With a booming muskrat market came intense trapping pressure, and with that pressure came more demand to reintroduce muskrats to depleted marsh lands.  Gibbs began live trapping and shipping muskrats, and developed traps to capture and hold ‘rats alive.  The most popular of these was probably the Armadillo trap, with an Armadillo-like segmenteGibbs_armadillo_trapd dome that encased the muskrat and held it alive up out of the water.  Gibbs is also known for developing the wire hide stretcher, which is the primary means of preparing muskrat pelts today.

Gibbs manufactured traps from 1919-1936.  In the early years, his manufacturing company in Chester, PA reportedly made over 2 million traps annually.  The company was sold in 1936 to the Animal Trap Company of Lititz, PA.  Gibbs then bought marshland in North Carolina, selling the Maryland land to his son, and continued trapping muskrats down there.

In addition to trapping muskrats and designing and manufacturing traps, Gibbs also did some serious work in his marshlands, designing and using equipment to dig canals for muskrat habitat and transportation, as well as building huge pens to hold live rats prior to shipping.  Some of the signs of his work can still be seen in the North Carolina marshland today, which is part of a National Wildlife Refuge.

Gibbs_hawk_trapWalter A. Gibbs was truly a pioneer and innovator in the trapping industry.  He is reported to have caught over 75,000 muskrats during his years in the swamp.  He also was a key innovator of many of the trapping designs we use today.  Despite his impact to the trapping industry, though, very little of the history of W.A. Gibbs was preserved, so we know relatively little about him.  He was an interesting man, to say the least.

Here are some more resources:

Building a Better Muskrat Trap

Trapperman discussion on Gibbs

Gibbs Trap – Fur Fish Game

 

February 2014 State Fur Auction Results – Oklahoma, Utah

Oklahoma Fur Auction Results

The Oklahoma Fur Bearers Alliance recently OklahomaFBAheld their 2014 fur action.

Below are some highlights from the February 1st auction:

Beaver – $6.18 average, with 66 sold.

Wild Mink$13.00 average, with 6 sold.

Red Fox$23.19 average, with 8 sold.

Gray Fox – $23.78 average, with 23 sold.

Raccoon – $6.19 average, with 958 sold.

Coyote$10.26 average, with 109 sold.

Possum – $0.82 average, with 409 sold.

Skunk – $0.41 average, with 17 sold.

Bobcat – $111.72 average, with 260 sold.

Muskrat – $5.07 average, with 41 sold.

Otter – $50.91 average, with 22 sold.

Click here to view the full Oklahoma Fur Bearers Alliance February 2014 Fur Auction Results.

Utah Fur Auction Results

UTA_logoThe Utah Trappers Association held a fur auction February 7-8, 2014.  

 

Click the links below to see the results of this two-day auction:

Saturday Utah Fur Sale

Sunday Utah Fur Sale                     

The Flag Tape Muskrat Set

The other day I was watching a Youtube video on muskrat trapping and saw a set I’d never seen before.  The young trapper in the video made a baited set with a 110 conibear, but it wasn’t bait he used on the trigger – it was a piece of flagging tape.  The tape works as a visual attractor and its bright color resembles some sort of food under the water.

I found it hard to believe that just a piece of flagging tape would catch a muskrat, so I decided to head down to the marsh and give it a shot myself.

Muskrat_flagtapesetHere’s the set.  A simple piece of white flagging tape wrapped around the trigger of a 110 conibear.  Coni is gripping a lath, which is stuck into the mucky bottom and holds the trap a few inches to a foot below the water surface or ice.

 

 

 

 

MuskratFlagTapeAnd two days later – the results.  The set works!  It probably won’t be my go-to under ice muskrat set in the future, but I’ll be sure to experiment and see how it stacks up against other sets.  Flagging tape makes cheap bait!  Just goes to show you can always pick up some new idea or interesting tip here and there.