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Outlook for fur trapping season looks promising
LITTLE ROCK - Trapping furbearers is a long standing tradition in Arkansas. Its history goes back to the days of the old Arkansas Post in the early 1800s when early pioneers and Native Americans brought hides of otter, beaver, raccoons and others for sale to this settlement on the Arkansas River. Furbearer trapping season opens Nov. 18.

Over harvest of these and other furbearers over the next 150 years almost caused several species to be eliminated from the state. However, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission restocking programs and more restrictive seasons have resulted in impressive comebacks for many species and regulated furbearer trapping is allowed.

People who trap do so for the enjoyment of being out in the woods and the challenges involved in determining exactly where an animal is going to step so as to have the best chance of catching them, explains AGFC furbearer biologist Blake Sasse. "However, there is still a market for wild-caught furs to be used primarily in the clothing industry and prices for fur vary significantly from year to year depending on demand," Sasse said.

Parker Dozhier, of Hot Springs, has been writing about fur markets as a Field Editor for Trapper and Predator Caller magazine for 28 years. He believes that prices for raccoon, Arkansas' most commonly trapped furbearer, will be about $10 to $17 for animals from north Arkansas and $8 to $10 for south Arkansas pelts, Sasse said. "This is quite a bit higher than the statewide average of $5.43 for dry skins last year and is primarily due to increased demand caused by the clearance of pelts that had been kept in inventory over the last few years," Sasse explained.

Dozhier predicts that other species may see much higher prices such as coyote ($16 to $18) and striped skunk (up to $6). Beaver, a common nuisance animal in the state, may go for $14 to $16 for a properly dried pelt which is much higher than normally seen in the state because of higher demand for this product in China, where most Arkansas fur is destined to go.

One disappointment this season may be otter which averaged $126.68 in 2005-2006. Because of recent problems with importing this species into China there may be little or no demand for them until these trade issues are resolved.

Bobcat, which is the third most valuable furbearer species in the state will probably be worth $50 to $65 which will be somewhat higher than last year. Bobcat and otter harvests are closely regulated because of an international treaty to protect certain rare animals. While both are common in the United States they closely resemble endangered species from other parts of the world and in order to tell them apart any taken in Arkansas must be tagged by the AGFC prior to leaving the state.

Mink and muskrat prices will be slightly higher than last season with male mink at $16 to $18 (females will bring half that) and muskrats with prices up to $5.50 for both species likely to rise throughout the season.

Sasse notes that populations of commonly trapped species in Arkansas are stable with some species having seen large increases over the last 20 to 30 years. “Regulated trapping helps us keep some nuisance species, like beaver in check and reduce problems for landowners,” he said.

The AGFC has long recognized concern about the possible effects of trapping on individual animals. Sasse said, “We don’t allow the use of foot-hold traps with big teeth on them that most people think of when you mention trapping. These traps must be smooth jawed and checked daily to ensure that animals are not left in them too long,” he said.



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