Russian, Korean, & Chinese pelt demand drives U.S. fur trapping
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2003:
SEATTLE, VANCOUVER, NEW ORLEANS-“The main markets for
trapped fur are in Russia, Korea, and China,” Seattle fur broker
Irwin Goldberg told Joel Gay of the Anchorage Daily News in December
2002. Goldberg said river otter pelts were selling to China this
winter at about half again the average price of recent years.
“Illinois’ raccoon population has declined about 10%,
officials say, largely because of demand for their pelts in the
former Soviet Union,” recently wrote Jay Hughes of Associated Press.
Killing 86,673 raccoons in 2000-2001, Illinois trappers
raised the total to 165,373 in 2001-2002, 76% of the animals they
skinned, and more than doubled their income, which rose from
$682,000 to $1.4 million.
Reports from Alaska and Pennsylvania fur brokers indicate,
however, that mink, fox, wolf, and wolverine pelt prices are all
currently selling at about 25% to 50% of their 1980s peaks.
ANIMAL PEOPLE analysis of the most recent available state
trapping reports indicates that about 125,000 trappers are now active
in the U.S.-about half as many as could trap if every holder of
“small game” permits that allow both hunting and trapping actually
used the permit to trap. State wildlife agencies began promoting the
combination permits during the late 1980s and early 1990s in hopes of
stimulating flagging trapping permit sales and reducing
The number of animals trapped for fur in Canada fell to new
lows in 2001-2002, according to the Association for the Protection
of Fur-Bearing Animals, whose founder, George Clements, has
tracked the data for more than 50 years. In 1979, Clements says,
Canadians trapped 5.5 million animals for fur. The toll declined to
3.3 million in 1987, and in 2001-2002 fell to 895,000.
Market demand for lower-priced furs, notably muskrat and
nutria, remains weak. A bounty of $4.00 per nutria tail,
instituted in November 2002, motivated Louisiana trappers to kill
20,517 nutria during the first month it was in effect-but that was
about half the number they would have to kill to meet the target of
400,000 by the March 31 end of the state trapping season. The
projected bounty payout of $12.5 million over the next five years is
administrated by the Lousiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,
using federal wetlands restoration funding.
Native to South America, nutria were introduced to Louisiana
and several other states early in the 20th century as an intended
replacement for trapped-out beaver. Louisiana trappers killed as
many as 180,000 nutria per year during the 1970s and1980s–and paid
the state a royalty on pelt sales.
As trapped fur prices and the royalty revenue fell toward the
end of the decade, state officials tried to combat declining sales
of nutria garments and growing opposition to fur trapping by blaming
nutria for coastal erosion.
Other evident causes of the sinking Louisiana coastline
include hurricanes, subsidence due to offshore oil drilling, and
canalization of waterways.
The major natural predators of nutria are alligators,
considered endangered 15 years ago, whose recovery in Louisiana
parallels the decline of nutria trapping.