We’re part way through the fur selling season, and the predicted slump in the fur market is being reflected in both local and international auction prices. We knew things would be tough this winter, but many of us trap regardless of fur prices. Still, the low prices have undoubtedly kept selling volume down. Many folks either cut way back on their trapping or are holding on to fur in cold storage.
In short, fur prices are way down for most species. We won’t know how low they will go (or if they will rebound) for other species until the major spring fur auctions. So why is the fur market down? The greatest factor seems to be Russia. The recent economic collapse in the country (due to tanking oil prices) and the falling value of the ruble (Russian dollar) really put a hit on the country’s buying power. Russia consumes most of the utility fur articles, including most of the raccoon pelts that U.S. trappers produce. In addition to Russia’s woes, other countries like China still have a lot of last year’s fur garment inventory unsold, meaning there will not be huge demand for more fur until the current items are sold out. A cold winter in the East may be helping this along.
So what about specific fur prices? Let’s take a look at a few of the major species that give us a read on the overall market.
Coyotes have been the bright spot in the fur market this season. The trim market is hot, and high quality western coyotes are in good demand. Western coyotes averaged $50-100 at the most recent NAFA and FHA auctions, with the lower quality eastern skins bringing $20-30.
Red Fox has gotten a boost by the coyote market, and pelts are bringing $20-30 or so.
Hope you enjoyed that, because things kind of go down hill from here!
The past few years have been good for muskrat trappers, and we’ve been getting used to $7-10 rats. That era may be over, at least for the near future. ‘Rats have been trading at $5-6 lately. Most of the market is going to the Chinese, and they have a lot of unsold stock. The latest NAFA auction saw pretty big declines in muskrat prices. The overall average for Large to 3XL rats was $6.23, but the smaller ‘rats only averaged $2.59. All in all, that’s still a good price for something as small and easy to trap as a muskrat, but it’s uncertain whether the market will hold.
NAFA and FHA didn’t even bother to sell raccoons at the recent sales. With the uncertainty in Russia, there is virtually no market for coons right now. Some folks have rumored that there will be a huge comeback in coon prices in the spring auctions. That remains to be seen, but I find it doubtful with all of the unsold coons waiting around for buyers. The local fur buyers who are buying coons aren’t paying much more than $5-10 on average, and even then they may be taking a gamble.
Beaver has commanded pretty low but stable prices for many years now. The days of $1/inch beaver are long gone, but trappers have been able to expect a $20-30 average on good collections of beaver for years now. Not this year, though. We’re looking at numbers closer to $15-18, and possibly less. If demand picks up in time for the spring auctions this may change, but beaver trapping is still going to be a losing proposition financially.
Prices for fur items not mentioned above are difficult to determine right now. Specialty items like western bobcats, marten, fisher and wolverine will likely hold decent value, but overall levels will be dependent on the state of the fur market in March and April.
As trappers, we’ve weathered storms like this before, and we know we have to take the good with the bad. The fur market will improve, it’s just a matter of time. For now, though, don’t make big plans for that fur check, or you may be sorely disappointed.