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.
…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.
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.