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Local trappers doing well despite some lower fur prices

'They are able to catch some of those skins that are fetching top dollar right now. And that kind of makes up for some of the lower priced items that we’re seeing such as otter’s and beavers' Mark Taylor Trapper Relations Manager.

Trappers from across North America were in North Bay over the weekend, for the 29th Annual Fur Harvesters Trappers Convention.

Held at the Fur Harvesters Auction building, this year’s theme centred around trappers and their role as wildlife managers.

“Probably over one thousand people are going to come through the doors over the course of the weekend. This is something we put on for the trappers as the people who supply the fur for the auction,” said Mark Taylor, Trapper Relations Manager.

“This is basically a trade show for the trappers where they have demonstrations on how to prepare animals properly, and learn new techniques for trapping animals, and the proper harvest and humane ways of harvesting fur-bearing animals.”

Taylor says the industry has faced some challenges in recent years.

“Some of the challenges being lower fur prices in the last few years due to conditions with global economies. Most of the fur is sold to foreign nations such as China and Russia, and the difficulty they’re having with their economics, low oil prices and things like that, so a lot of people in those countries don’t have money for fur garments,” said Taylor.

“So we’ve seen a reduction in the price of furs. So that has had an impact on our trappers as well, because with the lower prices then they can’t afford to maybe go out and catch as much as they normally would.”

One of the most popular furs right now is coyotes for trim items such as on parkas.

“Canada Goose is one of the largest purchasers of coyotes. There are other companies as well from China that make similar garments. So, coyotes is definitely number one. Another one would be lynx cats or bobcats. They’re very popular as well, especially in places like Greece and Italy,” said Taylor.

Sable is another popular one, or marten used as trim on ranch mink garments or as full-length garments themselves.

Taylor says, for the most part, local trappers are doing pretty well. Within the North Bay area, they catch quite a few martens and coyotes.

“They are able to catch some of those skins that are fetching top dollar right now. And that kind of makes up for some of the lower priced items that we’re seeing such as otters and beavers which are struggling just due to not being as important in fashion right now.“

The convention also deals with industry policies and procedures.

“Right now there’s a thing going on with the wolf ban around Algonquin Park and things like that. Our local Ontario organization that looks after the trappers is here. They work closely with the MNRF to try and resolve some of those issues, to try and get some of the policies changed for the benefit of the trappers and for the benefit of the wildlife population when it comes to not harvesting the top predators such as wolves which has a detrimental effect on things like moose and deer and beaver populations.”   

Originally from Verner, now living in Ottawa, Mylene Desbiens demonstrated how to prepare a beaver pelt as part of the woman’s skinning competition.

Her father, an avid trapper, began taking her to the convention when she was an infant.  

She says there are more women involved in trapping than we might think.  

“We might not be as prominent as the men, because it is a male lead industry. I think if you haven’t grown up in this it is a harder pastime to get into not like hunting which is easier, “ said Desbiens.  

“Being a trapper, it is a lot more work, there is a lot more paperwork involved, you have to have a proper trap line. So, the thing with women is you have to have an entryway to go into trapping. Being on the trap line alone in the winter time is a lot of hard work, it is a lot of manual work. I prefer fleshing to going trapping. But I think there is a lot of women in the industry. And every year there is a lot more women competing. So that is a very good sign.”

As president of the Timmins Fur Council, Jodie Russell says the convention is a good opportunity for public relations.

Russell says the convention is a good opportunity for public relations.

“Not only is this a trapper’s convention, but later today leaders will be bringing their scouts and guides in to see what is here. It is an opportunity for us to interact with the general public,” said Russell.

“This is a fur kit that we use when we go into all the schools, to give students the opportunity to see all the different furs that are available in Canada. They can actually put their hands on them and touch them and ask questions about them, so it is a really good opportunity for us from that standpoint to educate the public on what we do and why we trap,” said Russell.

“It is Canada’s oldest profession, it is part of the reason why Canada is here as a country because trapping opened up this country, and we’re really proud, centuries later to still be able to do the exact same thing. And how we help our communities with respect to nuisance animals and controlling the beaver and coyotes and some of the animals that sometimes create problems for people in cities.”

Mike Seelman and Mark Spencer both made the trip from Michigan.

“I’m a fur agent for Fur Harvesters, one of the US agents. I’ve been up here since it started. The quality of the fur has been getting better and better every year. More teaching is going on, how to put up better fur. We’re not seeing some of the ratty stuff and not seeing all the early stuff that you used to get. I learn something every time I come here, how to do different things with fur and what they’re doing in the fur industry,” said Spencer.  

“Our industry (in the US) is money driven. We don’t have a quota system like they do in Canada, so right now the prices are all low, so guys aren’t really going out after them. Our take is way low compared to what they would be when the prices are better.”

Not being a trapper himself, Allan Tryon from Greater Sudbury, has always been curious about the industry. When a friend invited him to come along, he jumped at the chance.  

“I always wanted to come to see what was here, and of course I have a friend who is a trapper. I learned about some of the different traps they use and the different ways to set traps. The price of everything, and the whole experience really, of the outdoor trapping system, is interesting,” said Tryon.

“I’m really impressed by the displays overall. They have a lot of different ones.”