In a ballot initiative with national repercussions, Maine voters once again sent an unmistakable message to animal-rights extremists: stay out of our state.
For the second time in 10 years, Maine voters resoundingly rejected a ballot initiative backed and bankrolled by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Throughout the battle on Question 1, which would have banned the use of bait, dogs and traps when bear hunting, sportsmen and professional wildlife managers who opposed the initiative continually maintained a double-digit lead in the polls.
“This is a great victory for sportsmen. It shows that scientific wildlife management can withstand a direct attack from the well-funded anti-hunting movement,” said Evan Heusinkveld, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USSA) vice president of government affairs. “Despite pumping more than $2.5 million into this campaign, HSUS received a loud and clear message from Maine voters that their radical agenda is out of touch with modern wildlife management.”
Facing overwhelming opposition, HSUS and its front group, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, attempted to undermine the political process with lawsuits and petty allegations meant to keep voters ignorant of the scientific facts that refuted their stance. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting unsuccessfully sued to keep professional wildlife managers and biologists with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife from speaking out about the ramifications to citizens should Question 1 pass.
“We fully expected them to employ this type of tactic when it became clear that they would be unable to overcome the willingness of Maine voters to listen to the facts. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has earned a high level of trust based on a solid track record of managing Maine’s wildlife, and there was no amount of misleading rhetoric that could change that,” said Nick Pinizzotto, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance President and CEO.
Tonight’s vote was the culmination of nearly two years of fundraising and fighting to protect the undeniable role of sportsmen in managing wildlife. The concerted effort of the USSA and other groups opposed to Question 1 ensures that hunting and trapping will continue to be available to state biologists tasked with managing Maine’s 30,000 bears.
“Our success would have been impossible without the support of USSA. Not only were they one of our largest individual donors, USSA helped lead the effort to raise millions to defend all sportsmen in Maine. Their expertise and dedication on sportsmen issues is uncontested. The leadership they provided will help safeguard hunting opportunities in Maine, and throughout the country, in the future,” said James Cote, campaign manager for the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, of the USSA.
The Maine Wildlife Conservation Council was a ballot-question committee set up specifically to defeat Question 1. It was comprised of such groups as the Maine Professional Guides Association, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Maine Trapper’s Association, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, as well as many other sportsmen’s organizations, farmers, small business owners, unions, wildlife professionals and others concerned with managing the state’s wildlife in a responsible manner.
In defeating HSUS on Question 1, the citizens of Maine rebuked the meddling of the out-of-state special-interest group and ensured their heritage and sound scientific wildlife management will endure. However, HSUS has a long history of attacking sportsmen, and while they might or might not return to Maine after such a decisive defeat, it’s a safe bet that they will attempt to advance their animal-rights agenda in other states next year.
“It is the sole mission of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance to protect hunting, fishing and trapping from emotional and unfounded attacks by anti-hunting groups,” Pinizzotto. “It is imperative for the future of all wildlife that management decisions be made by trained professionals guided by sound science and proven techniques.”
Wild hog populations are out of control in the United States, and it’s estimated that they cause $1.5 billion worth of damage nationwide.
Research in Mississippi indicates that hunter harvest of hogs is not adequate to control their populations, but trapping holds some promise.
From the Mississippi Business Journal:
Traps can remove a greater number of pigs from an area at once, he said. Traps also require less time and effort than other removal methods, such as hunting or exclusion fencing.
A corral trap is best for capturing and removing large sounders, or herds of pigs, Hamrick said. These traps can be built easily with off-the-shelf materials. Before setting up a trap, scout the property and prebait suspected high-use areas. Set up game cameras to determine size of the sounder, whether more than one group is present, and the best spot for the trap.
Though the corral traps work, many hogs have become wise to them, requiring trappers to take a look at some other methods to catch hogs.
Trapper Newt Sterling from Port Republic, New Jersey is an expert snare man and on the forefront of the wild hog snaring profession. Here’s from one of his recent videos:
Wild hogs become very wary of pen-type traps after a few initial catches, and quickly avoid bait sites after being shot at. Snares are an effective, fast, mobile, inexpensive method of controlling hog populations, plus are deadly on wary hogs. After considerable experimentation, Master Snaresman Newt Sterling has developed and designed equipment and methods in a system guaranteed to catch and hold hogs ranging in size from piglets to the largest boar.
To find out more, visit www.SnareOne.com.
On Tuesday November 4th, Maine voters will decide whether to ban the use of bait, hounds and traps to hunt bears in the state. Perhaps the most misunderstood of these methods is bear trapping. Bob Noonan explains bear trapping well in his Lewiston Sun Journal article:
Bear trapping is heavily regulated. A special bear trapping permit is required, and is available only to licensed trappers, who must take a 10-hour special training course to get a license. In 2013, only 531 trappers bought a permit. They caught 106 bears, a success rate of 20 percent.
Foot-snared bears do not chew their feet off. That is a deliberate fabrication. The foot snare is very humane, and does not damage the bear’s foot.
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.
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.
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.
North 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
Do 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.
The 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.
Clint 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 magazine, 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.