A high demand for pelts this winter has meant a higher number of new and returning trappers, according to St. Lawrence County trapping enthusiasts.
Every year we have a higher volume of people coming to get their trapping license, Ethan L. Reynolds, president of the St. Lawrence County Trapping Association, said Friday.
This year, trappers, trapping and demand for pelts have all increased based on a number of factors, Mr. Reynolds said.
There are fur sales throughout the year, he said. If they run out of fur in the warehouses, like this year, it sets a kind of rollercoaster in motion and a three-year process begins in which prices go up and down.
As a result, since the start of the season in October, prices have climbed.
When James M. Aubrey, 57, started trapping with his grandfather 50 years ago, muskrat pelts were $1, $2 and $3. On Friday, they averaged at $11.50, and topped $19 for top lot on Jan. 9.
There will be one more very good auction before warehouses are filled up, Mr. Reynolds said. Auctions in March and April will start to drop down a little bit. I predict in the next fall prices for fur will remain the same they are this year.
Warmer temperatures in trapping areas are likely the cause of lower populations, leading to decrease in supply and increased demand, Mr. Reynolds said.
There were more predators taking advantage of low water levels, he said.
Many of the furs are purchased from Canada to be shipped to other countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea, which have all seen an increase in fur sales over the last few years.
Colder temperatures in those regions have also increased demand. The greener cultures become, the higher the fur market rises, Mr. Reynolds said.
Animals are a renewable resource, so long as we keep a balance with the number of each animal, Mr. Reynolds said. We keep a close eye on the number of animals we trap and we work with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to maintain healthy animal populations.
Mr. Reynolds said he recognizes it might be difficult for many in the U.S. to grasp with the idea that animals are a renewable resource.
Many Americans buy it in their clothes, he says. They are inconspicuously placed inside the linings of a hats and coats and sold back to the states. While U.S. tastes have changed, worldwide, these things are still used.
Mr. Reynolds said many of the new trappers are younger people and retirees looking to supplement their income.
There is probably 65 to 70 percent of the classes 18 or younger, he said. The rest of them are older and retired and now entering the sport.
In addition to being the largest county in the state, the county also is the largest producer of furs, Mr. Reynolds said.
When prices drop down to where they normally are, youre going to see a drop in the people who trap, said Mr. Aubrey, who also teaches trapper safety courses for the DEC. Youre not making a lot of money, and theres a lot of investment in the traps another tools we use. It involves a lot of hard work and hours.