Traditionally, it’s been common to provide a reasonably accurate picture of what the fur market is going to look like by the time fall rolls around and trapping season gets underway. But the past few years have been anything but traditional in the fur market, and uncertainty is the new name of the game.
These days a large percentage of the fur that’s harvested in the fall and early winter months won’t be sold until the following spring, or even summer, making it difficult to predict what will happen. But one thing we know for sure is that fur is in less demand than it was years ago, and most items are going to be difficult to sell for prices that most fur harvesters would consider reasonable.
As I’ve said in the past, the modern fur market is global. Unlike the historic market, where a great deal of domestic production was consumed in North America, today’s market relies on buyers in China, Greece, Italy, Russia and Korea. Unlike in the U.S., fur is fashionable in these places, and the economic well being of their consumers is critical in driving the market. China is the largest buyer. With the global pandemic spreading through urban centers in the country, Chinese cities have been in and out of lockdown for the past year or so. These lockdowns grind local economies to a halt. People can’t get out to shops to buy fur coats and other garments. There’s also little reason to spend on fashionable clothing when folks aren’t going out and socializing like they once did. All of this means bad news for fur dealers in China and those who supply them.
Similarly, Russia has been one of the largest buyers of fur globally. Despite disruptions in trade as a result of the ongoing war, the value of the Russian ruble has held up, indicating that Russia’s buying power in relation to the U.S. dollar is pretty good. That said, trade relations have almost completely broken down between Russia and most of the Western world, making for a much more challenging environment to sell fur into.
All of that said, there still is a market for wild fur, it’s just not what it once was, and it may be more challenging to get some furs sold at any price.
Fur Harvesters Auction, Inc. is the one remaining fur auction house in North America, and sells a large portion of the wild fur produced in the U.S. and Canada. Travel restrictions from the pandemic and war related sanctions have made it impossible to hold an in-person auction for international buyers to attend in Ontario. With continued online auctions, fur can be sold, but buyers have less confidence in what they are buying without being able to thoroughly inspect the lots, and are often willing to pay less. An eventual resumption in the traditional auction format, perhaps in 2023, should help with fur prices, provided global demand for fur products recovers.
Groenewold Fur & Wool Company, the largest private buyer of wild fur in the U.S., has close connections with the fur market in China and monitors day to day sales of fur items in numerous Chinese shops. Groenewold regularly runs fur buying routes across the midwestern U.S. throughout the trapping season. After discontinuing many fur buying routes last season due to the lack of fur sales, the company expects to resume routes and actively buy fur this coming season. The question is, how much will they pay?
Fashion trends continue to drag on the fur market. Despite all of the obvious benefits of fur – its incredible warmth and durability, sustainable management, environmental friendliness and biodegradability, and the necessity to harvest animals to manage healthy populations, the animal rights movement continues to influence the industry and fashion. Several fashion lines have announced they’ll discontinue using fur. Canada Goose – the largest buyer of coyote pelts and trendsetter in fur lined parka fashion, has gone ‘fur free’. In addition, several cities in the U.S. have passed rules banning the sale of fur products, and some states are contemplating fur bans as well. Just when we should be celebrating the benefits of wild fur, society seems to be running away from it.
We know the overall trend in the fur market isn’t great, but what about specifics on certain species? Even in poor markets, there’s usually a bright spot somewhere. Let’s take a look.
Coyote – For years coyotes were the one standout in an overall poor fur market. This was driven primarily by the trendy fur lined parka hoods sold by Canada Goose and other similar coat companies. The trend appears to have finally reached its end, and demand for coyote pelts dropped off a cliff last year. That’s unfortunate because coyotes are one of the most prolific furbearing species, and humans benefit greatly from responsible, sustainable levels of coyote harvest. With the low prices to come, we may not see much harvest for fur, and animal damage control trapping will likely need to play a larger role in harvesting coyotes. The best quality Heavy western coyotes will still be in demand, but at a lower price, likely around $30-40.
With the limited demand for coyote pelts likely to be filled by western heavies, the lower quality Eastern and Southern coyotes will be priced low, with Easterns bringing in the $15-25 range and the rest around $10-15.
Muskrat pelts did okay last year, particularly early in the selling season, but the continued low price of ranch mink and lots of held over rat pelts from last year will have an impact. I’d expect $2-3 on average for muskrats.
The market for raccoon pelts continues to be very poor. A very abundant item with low demand and high processing costs has created a situation where it’s going to be difficult if not impossible to sell many raccoon skins at any price. The best quality pelts – the largest sizes that are fully prime and undamaged – will have demand and may sell for $10-15, but the rest may not sell at all, or if they do, average in the low single digits. It would be wise to keep only the best of your raccoon catch for the fur market.
Beaver pelts are used in two very different markets. The most prime northern beaver pelts with long guard hairs and thick underfur command very high value, but these are costly to produce and demand is limited to a small portion of the overall beaver market. This results in high prices being paid for winter caught beaver from sections that produce dark pelts. These may turn into plucked, dyed and sheared garments sold in high end markets, or into niche items like hats, mitts and blankets.
It only takes a small number of pelts to satisfy the demand for better quality beaver, and the remainder mostly go to the hatter market. These pelts are ground and crushed into felt and used to make cowboy hats. Pelt quality isn’t a concern for the low end markets, any beaver pelt can be used, and they don’t pay well. There seems to be no middle market for beaver pelts these days.
Top quality beaver pelts may get $25 or more this year (which might be one of the few bright spots in the market), with northern collections likely averaging around $15-20. Beaver from most other places will probably continue to average in the $10-12 range.
Beaver castor continues to be in relatively high demand, but the market is showing some signs of weakness. Low beaver harvest means supply hasn’t satisfied this demand in recent years, which has resulted in high prices. Last year we entered the season with castor averaging close to $100/lb. The market weakened throughout the season and I was hearing reports of $60-70/lb, but the late season auctions saw a run-up in price back to the $100 mark. We’ll likely continue to see castor sell at levels above normal, but weaker than last year’s highs. At this point, $60-70/lb is probably a safe bet.
Otter prices haven’t changed much in years. They’ll probably continue to sell for $15-25, which is a shame for such a nice quality pelt. I’ve had all of my otter pelts tanned the past couple of years and have explored several ideas for unique uses of these pelts.
Marten was one of the items that sold a bit better than expected toward the end of last season. With uncertainty around the availability of Russian sable in the world market, many buyers may turn to North American marten as an alternative. Heavy marten from northern Canada and Alaska should bring north of $40 with some room for advancement, with Lower 48 marten in the $20-30 range.
Fisher will probably continue to average $20-30. This is another item I’ve chosen to have tanned and seek alternative markets for rather than sell into a poor price environment.
The demand for better quality Western bobcats has waned recently. Instead of averaging $300-500 like in years past, I think the new reality for these is in the $200-300 range. The good news is that the lower end of the bobcat market has moved up over the past year or so. These bobcats, from Canada and parts of the Lower 48 outside of the top Western sections, may continue to bring averages of $60-90. However, any weakness in the market could send these prices down to the $30-50 range.
Nobody seems interested in Red Fox or Greys. They’ll probably fetch around $10 on average.
Skunks will sell well – there always seems to be a specialty market for them – usually at about $5, but this year we’ve started to see skunks sell in the $10-15 range in local auctions. They’ll probably continue to sell in the $5-15 range, with an average around $10.
Northern wilderness trappers – those living a lifestyle myself and others have dreamed about – are fortunate enough to have a few species that will sell well even in poor markets. Wolves and wolverine are harvested in small numbers and always have adequate demand at respectable prices, around $250-500 on average. Canada lynx aren’t in great demand but have been selling at slightly advanced levels recently, and a limited harvest may help put lynx averages north of $60. Granted, this may be small consolation for a northern trapper with the elevated price of fuel and supplies needed to travel great distances in the bush.
For several years doing this fur market report I’ve hoped we’d seen the bottom and had better prices just around the corner, but the rebound has yet to materialize, and the reality is that it may not happen any time soon. The market is changing, and we as trappers and fur harvesters are going to have to change and adapt with it. In the words of the old mountain man, “fur will shine again”. Will it be as bright as the days of past fur booms, or just a glimmer of its former self? Time will tell.
charles Koehler says
Hi Thankyou for your fur report.
It is a fact that fur is not in as big of demand as once before but a lot of fur retailers are taking advantage of the producers. ( trappers) I know for A fact that they have been buying up the high quality furs at very cheep prices having them tanned and just stock pilling them and enjoying the huge profits by not reducing the prices of the finished products. The anti fur people have deep ties in local state and federal governments. and use the green , sustainable and science card only if it plays into there plan. The wealthy will always have the money to buy whatever they want.. the only way to bring the fur prices back up to good levels for the producer is to create shortages of the high end furs. If the end of the line fur sellers want our furs make them pay A fair price for them. have all of the top furs tanned so they can be held for years if that is what it takes to use up the end users stock piles. And sell these furs in tanned condition.. other wise the end users will just keep buying the good stuff for nothing because its so cheep to stock pile rather than buy fresh goods . and make way more money this way. if they need fur there will be high end furs for sale but your there not going to get them for nothing.
David Payne says
Long time ago family’s depended on that income. Been on a lot of coon hunting when I was a teenager. Now there’s not enough money to pay for equipment gas ex.
Gregg Staves says
My father was known as trapper Hank from northern new York he trapped on Whitney park for yrs as a kid I loved going wit him to sell his furs he ran a trap line every year right up till two yrs before his demise he always told me even when fur prices were low it was truly just for the love of being in nature among wild life keep on trapping guys much respect to all of you..
J. C-iron says
SMH ………. I ……… Well I hope the world doesn’t get much more off track . Thank you !
Ray Heenan says
Much appreciated your detailed insight. Very helpful.
My email if you have a mailing list. Be safe.
charles Koehler says
Follow up on my last comment !
Just A thought! has anyone ever thought of A Fur co-op !
While the top furs are being sold for nothing, why should the trappers and producers get burned.
There is A lot bigger demand for fur than given credit for. The problem is that the average person cant afford the huge prices of a top quality fur coat. or other item. The end of the line fur producers wont reduce there prices on the top quality furs because they are selling there products to the people that can buy anything they want any time they want. which is always needed and thankyou!. But the mass majority of people just cant do this. so maybe it is time to rethink the way we sell our furs.
The fur prices will never go up to fair levels for the producers until the tanned stock piles are used up.
The end products need to be made affordable for the average person. If A co-op could be created ware fur producers, tanners, and garment makers band together ware everyone gets paid A fair price and the consumer gets A top quality fur garment at basement prices i feel the fur would start moving again. The resources are out there A piece here and A piece there it just takes some planning to put it together. I’m in and have some items to get the ball rolling.
Luke Pike says
I can remember when raccoons fur was 75 dollars a peace now not worth skinning
Howard McNally jr says
They need to have raccoon pelts go back up there’s to many of them
How about wild mink prices. You didn’t mention them. Especially Minnesota mink.
Hi Rex, mink will be very low, possibly unsellable in some cases….unfortunately.
grant snyder says
thanks. what’s the prices for weasels?
Maybe a buck or 2, depending on size.
Wayne Wooten says
How much iowa badgers pelts worth this year?
Raymond Heenan says
After skin and flesh process, wash them in Woolite. Preferably in a washing machine. They turn very white. Fur buyers like that in badgers.
Sounds like it’s better to have your own hides tanned and team up with a local taylor and have your own pieces made. Or, keep what you have for your own use.
I don’t trap, but have always been interested. Friends used to run trap line in upstate Pa. I’m more interested in trapping beaver and maybe hunting coyote only because of their high populations. Keep the fur and make my own items with them.
David Lepro says
It is interesting how life presents so many changes in us all…l lived in N Wayne County, Penna when growing up in early fifties and was obsessed with trapping … esp beavers in the midst of winter. I learned more about the details of wildlife through trapping than any other outdoor activity…beaver pond areas were wildlife bonanzas. However, even though my interests in wildlife study has remained very strong…l could NOT kill all the animals that l used to for any reason…my respect for them has made great changes in my association…even though l do not have objections to any trapper’s honest activity!!
Benny Malone says
We are an endangered species’s..and soon may be gone for ever….the long passed down knowledge of trapping. Will dwindle away…a heritage lost for ever ….the over population of predator s will reduce the populations of deer and fowle… decease such as parvo etc. And infestations of mange will eat away at our predators..and the domino effect will end at us….
Curt reimer says
I don’t get it people won’t wear fur but they will put on leather boots and a leather jacket should I tell them or mabe they will figuer it out this country was built on trapping in the beginning now animals are over populated and dying of disease its sad people don’t understand humanly trapping of animals their under educated
Deran Davis says
As a youngster in the late 60’s – 70’s, I was a serious trapper of muskrat and occasional raccoon. In school I always had a pocket full of money. Making 6-8 dollars on brown rats and the blacks brought me $12. Raccoons brought me $25 a piece. The Great Dismal Swamp was full of them but then here come the wacko liberals throwing paint on people’s furs and wiped out the fur market. I’m glad I got to enjoy my childhood during those wonderful years. Today’s kids, you’re lucky if you can get them out the door while they’re in their 20’s.
Gerald Landry says
Deran, many of today’s youth are so Captive to X-BoX, Joy Sticks they can’t even form Pee Wee Hockey Teams anymore in small town Canada! Older teens are suffering TexT Neck from eXcessive Key Boarding as well as Carpal Tunnel from too many hours on Joy Sticks, and they haven’t even entered the Labour Market yet!
In my youth growing up Rural, we had customers for Wild Rabbit and Sold Christmas Trees in Town! After High School I was granted the Trap Line on St. Ignace Island in Lake Superior, an experience I’ll cherish forever!
Ca. Is a fine example of what money and corrupt officials can manage to get away with. Bobcats are under populated due to the ban on trapping and hunting them. Only lrg toms now dominate the scarcity of food due to 20 yrs of drought and millions of acres burned every year. Hollywood buys the laws. F ca.
Daryl Barstow says
Mercer Lawing is responsible for giving the antis what they neede to ban trapping in Ca. He did a front page interview with the L. A . Times newspaper trying to sell his cages . They set him up and trapped him. He fell for it and told all the antis just what they needed to get them going!! Now he’s in Az. Trying to take over thier trapping assoc after ours collapsed due to his actions !!!
Cliff Herring says
Dang, all I can do is shake my head after reading this report, I trapped from the mid 60’s to the early 80’s until I had to quit due to a 12 hour job and a two hour commute. The year before I quit I was getting up to $10.00 for jumbo rats with a $7.00 average, coon ran $15.00 to $25.00 and foxes from $25.00 to $65.00 dollars with reds bringing the higher prices. With the price of fuel and supplies today my hat is off to those who still trap.