With the close of North American Fur Auctions’ July fur sale, the 2017 wild fur selling season is in the books. It was a tough one for many trappers, with weak demand from foreign markets resulting in lower fur prices for most items. Oil prices remain low and Russia’s economy continues to struggle. China is still buying fur, but at greatly reduced demand. Many buyers are simply looking for deals on high quality fur, hoping to cash in on a future market uptick. But as market speculators can tell you, holding onto furs over the past 2-3 years hoping for a change in the market hasn’t panned out.
Continued low oil prices and political unrest overseas doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the fur market over the next couple of years, but as we’ve seen before, unexpected events can change things with little notice. For now, trappers would do well to focus on producing furs for the few bright spots in the market (coyote, bobcat and marten) and minimize production of furs that will be difficult to sell. Lowering cost of production on the trapline should be a primary focus as well, though recreation-minded trappers may not put as much consideration into these costs. On the bright side, competition with other trappers will likely be low, and it’s a great time to experiment with new methods and locations on the ‘line, as well as practice fur handling skills.
Here’s a recap of fur prices from NAFA’s July auction:
Beaver continue to disappoint, but on the bright side, NAFA cleared out 100% of the beaver offered. Beaver averaged between $8-13, well below the cost of production. There isn’t much of a premium for the higher quality, prime northern beaver pelts in the current market.
Otter prices have dropped substantially, and sold at 62% for an average of $21.10.
Raccoon cleared at nearly 100%, with some better goods held back, averaging $6.38.
Muskrat prices dropped, and many of the larger rats didn’t sell. 87% sold overall, at an average of $3.18.
Wild Mink sold at 100% for an average of $9.17.
Coyotes remain the bright spot in the market. Lower quality Eastern ‘yotes sold at 61% for a $21.63 average, while the western goods sold at 82% for an average of more than $90! Semi heavy coyotes averaged around $40.
Red fox prices are down, with 100% of the offering selling for averages of $13-17. Very few grey fox sold.
Bobcat prices are down, but high quality western ‘cats still commanded close to $300. Bobcats from other regions ranged widely between $25-88.
Marten prices did okay, with the higher quality Canadian and Alaskan pelts averaging over $75. My Maine marten didn’t do nearly as well. Overall, trappers saw a marten average of just over $60, though only 60% of goods offered sold.
Fisher prices struggled compared to recent years, with a clearance of around 50% at an average price of about $37.
As the last major fur auction of the season, the NAFA July sale adds a level of uncertainty in the fur market going into the 2017 fall trapping season. Some trappers will drop out or scale back their traplines in response to the lower prices. Others, like me, will continue on, building our lines and gaining experience in hopes that the market comes back in future years. With the fur market as volatile as it’s been over the past few years, things can change quickly. As always, follow along at Trapping Today to stay informed and up to date on all things trapping.