In recent years, uncertainty has been the name of the game in the fur market. While uncertainty will always be a factor in a dynamic and changing market, enough events have unfolded over the past year to give us a decent level of predictability for prices this season. With the exception of beaver, most major fur items are expected to bring low prices, similar to past years. Some of the northern furs that are harvested in limited quantities (marten, wolf, wolverine, lynx) should be met with continued demand and bring decent prices. There is some upside to the lower end goods like raccoon, mink and muskrat depending on how the ranch mink supply plays out. Overall, most trappers would be wise to focus on beaver to pay the bills, while targeting other species where opportunity or necessity arises.
Worldwide demand for fur continues to wane. China has long been a major driver of the modern fur market, but the Chinese economy and consumer sector – while still growing – are growing at a slower pace than the long term average, and severe headwinds persist in the country’s future, primarily driven by demographics, debt and decoupling of global supply chains. The next two major consumers of much of our fur, Russia and Ukraine, are in the second year of a major war that has devastated both countries’ economies. The strength of the Russian ruble compared to the U.S. Dollar, which measures Russia’s buying power, is at its second lowest level in 20 years. And most Ukranian retailers and consumers are in no position to invest in furs. It’s not just these big three countries that are taking a hit. Many countries are dealing with rising inflation and shrinking consumer purchasing power. Add to that a record warm winter in Europe last year and Chinese lockdowns that prevented the movement of retail inventory last selling season, and it’s clear that global fur demand is very, very low.
The exception to this low fur demand is the hatter market, which uses beaver fur to make felt hats (cowboy hats, fedoras, etc). That market, dominated by consumers in Western countries, is absolutely booming. Some attribute this to the widespread popularity of the TV Series ‘Yellowstone’, while others say it’s a wider fashion phenomenon that goes far beyond a show. This demand has driven up the price of beaver pelts to the highest they’ve been in more than a decade, and the demand doesn’t seem to be waning yet. A word of caution before getting too giddy about the beaver market though…..we’ve seen this movie before. Canada Goose and their fur lined parkas helped drive the multi year fashion boom that drove coyote prices to the moon, only to come crashing back down in a few short months. That could happen just as easily with beaver pelts.
Although I’ve been of the mind that demand is the overwhelming driver of fur prices, supply plays a critical role, and while worldwide fur demand has waned, so has supply. Most specifically, the supply of ranch mink, which make up the bulk of the world market. Ranch mink prices have been selling far below the average cost to produce them for several years now. Many mink ranches have pelted out, either dramatically decreasing their supply or going completely out of business. In a market with normal demand this would be expected to cause prices to rebound within a year or two, but global fur demand seems to have fallen faster than supply these past few years, and buyers still haven’t worked their way through the millions of ranch mink that have been in cold storage for years. They’re getting closer though, and that’s the big question surrounding this year’s fur market. How quickly will the ranch mink inventory play out, causing buyers to turn to wild fur alternatives?
Let’s look at what to expect for individual species.
Beaver pelts should continue to sell strong, and price will be determined by size and weight of pelts more than by quality. Expect averages of $20-30 for all grades. Any beaver can be used for the hatter trade regardless of how prime the pelt is, and because pelts are ground up to make felt, the cuts and holes in pelts that would typically result in downgrades won’t matter nearly as much. Buyers may be a bit more choosy this year after paying through the nose for every beaver pelt they could find last year, and prices may reflect pelt quality a bit more than they did, but don’t be fooled. This is still by far a volume market. Trap beavers early and often. Don’t feel the need to wait until the pelts are ‘prime’ unless you’re targeting a very specific niche market. Take advantage of the high beaver prices. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this and it certainly won’t last forever.
The demand for beaver castor has not kept up with pelt demand, and prices have fallen from their high levels of a couple years ago. Castoreum will probably average $20-30 a pound, with potentially higher prices for the best grades.
Coyotes will be hard to sell this year. Nobody has been able to successfully fill the niche left by Canada Goose when they exited the market, and it’s my personal opinion that nobody will. Until a new fashion trend emerges in the Western countries or worldwide fur demand increases, coyote prices will languish. Better quality western coyotes may average $20-30 at best, with lower quality and Eastern goods in the $10-15 range. Some collections of coyotes may fail to bring even $10.
Raccoon prices are expected to remain low. Some of the larger raccoons from the top areas may bring $5-10 averages, but most sections won’t see $5.
Muskrats went virtually unsold at the major fur auctions last year due to extremely weak demand. There are very few buyers looking for muskrat pelts right now, and with all of last year’s inventory still in storage, a new season of production won’t help things. In the past I’ve encouraged trappers to sell their muskrats early because prices often peaked early in the selling season before demand was fully met and declined later on. This year I’d recommend doing the opposite. There is sure to be little to no demand for muskrats early on, with a slight possibility of improvement later in the season. This hinges on the remaining inventory of ranch mink and how quickly they begin to peter out. If ranch mink supply dries up later in the season, buyers will begin to look to wild mink and muskrat as replacements, and may help us work through that huge backlog of unsold ‘rats. My guess is that muskrats will average under $2 this season, but I hope I’m wrong.
Otter were strong last season, but averages in the high $20’s are not likely to hold up. $15-20 is probably more realistic. Beaver trapper effort is up considerably due to the high prices, and beaver trappers catch a lot of otters. The increased otter harvest may overwhelm existing demand and result in lower prices. This would be an item to sell early if you have the option, or avoid the international market altogether and sell at a state auction where otters are in limited supply and always have local demand. The Idaho auctions often boast the best prices for otter in the country.
Wild mink prices never change much anymore. They’ll probably average $5-6, with some upside potential is the ranch mink inventory runs out.
Red fox and Grey fox are niche market products these days, and usually average $10-15. Some of the Eastern foxes may not break $10 averages. The only positive thing to say about fox prices is that they are stable.
Bobcat prices have changed considerably in recent years, particularly in the spread between the high and low end of the quality spectrum. Top quality Western cats used to sell for more than ten times what a run of the mill Eastern cat would average. The top end has come down and the bottom end has come up a great deal. In recent sales, mid quality bobcats have been averaging around $100, which is a really good price in historic terms. Top Western cats still do better, but averages will probably remain in the $200-300 range. Lower end cats can expect $30-60.
Skunks are selling well in their traditional novelty market, and should continue to get $10-15.
Badger are being harvested in very limited quantities, which is probably related to the lower coyote harvest. Badger prices have been strong at around $20 averages, and are expected to stay that way.
Marten supply has been limited on a worldwide basis and demand is relatively strong. The top end may not outperform as much as usual, but expect overall averages of $40 with Alaskan types going for $50-60 and Rocky Mountain marten at $20-30.
Fisher have sold well recently and should average around $30-40. The large, dark males from Maine and Quebec collections can easily fetch $50.
Lynx demand remains strong, which is a plus for Northern trappers. Averages of $100 should continue this year for the better quality pelts.
Weasels won’t make a trapper rich, but expect averages of $2-3 for the short tailed variety and $4-5 for long tails.
I’ve reported on fur prices at Trapping Today for more than 15 years. Good years, bad years, and everything in between. One thing I’ve learned is it doesn’t matter what we think or how we feel about the market. The market doesn’t care. Supply, demand, fashion trends, ranch production, animal activists, war, economic crises, global pandemics…..these things all drive the market. And many of them are totally unpredictable before they come in and completely change the landscape, for better or worse. All we can do is adjust, adapt and keep moving forward. Watch those ranch mink inventories.