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Fur Takes a Major Hit Due to Coronavirus
Posted on April 2,2020
This is a very difficult and challenging time for us all. However, there is a silver lining to the coronavirus.
In mid March, just days before the event was to begin, we watched, waited and advocated for the cancellation of the largest wild fur auction house in North America. Almost 500,000 animal pelts were in the preliminary listing for sale in Toronto at the Fur Harvester's (FHA) March Auction.
On March 16, as TFMPL was preparing to step it up, Canada, in response to the coronavirus, responsibly closed their doors, basically to non-Canadians, thereby forcing the cancellation of the Fur Harvester's March auction. The major purchasers of fur from our North American wildlife are China and Russia. Italy, Greece and South Korea are also players in the fur trade.
Why is this so significant?
In the fall of 2019, the 350 year old North American Fur Auctions, (NAFA), with proclaimed roots to Hudson Bay company, recognized as the world's largest producer of wild fur, announced they would no longer be selling wild fur. Historically, many Montana trappers sent furs to the NAFA. In a letter to trappers, NAFA said their banking partners had decided to get out of the fur business. The names of the banks were not provided. According to the NAFA CEO, "the entire industry is still facing an unprecedented market correction and no sector is immune, including the auction houses."
The Fur Harvesters Auction claimed NAFA's problems were due to ranch fur and had nothing to do with wild fur. The cost for the production of ranch fur is now about double the profit. The prediction has been that the demand for wild fur would rise as the ranch fur market decreases. Fur Harvesters Auction were provided a virtual monopoly on wild fur sales. Trappers were assured they would still get their money at the Fur Harvester's auction. Some in the fur business actually give monetary advances to trappers.
The Fur Harvester's Auction reports, "The global fur market is always set at the International Auctions." They go on to advise trappers "as the last remaining wild fur auction house on the continent, the market will not be set until the conclusion of our March 24th /26th 2020 auction". Now that has been cancelled. The auction is being attempted instead online.
An expert told us that overtime all these pelts go stale reducing their value.
Even though, we know trappers say the number one reason they trap is for fun, TRAPPING IS MARKET DRIVEN. With the downturn of fur prices over the years, trapping has declined! Some have said it simply isn't worth it anymore or is becoming more cost prohibitive.
You may be surprised to know in the past, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks responded to low bobcat prices by increasing their quota in order to spark interest again in trappers. Nowadays, bobcat remain one of the more lucrative animals to trap and kill. The days of recent highs of $1,000 for a bobcat pelt are a rarity. The bobcat average price has also dropped $200 to an average of $300 - $400.
Unfortunately, the popularity of coyote trim jackets, courtesy of Canada Goose, has caused coyote pelts to rise as well as the persecution on them. This is further exacerbated in places like Montana where coyotes can be trapped, killed by any means, year-round, unlimited, no annual $28 trapping license required of residents and no reporting either. This of course is reinforced by the powerful livestock industry. There were 50,000 coyotes at this cancelled auction, alone. These were just the ones accepted for sale. Many, probably most, are not. Western coyotes are the favorites.
Locally, fur auctions in Montana and fundraisers to advance trapping have been cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions. Saga Furs, owned by the Finnish fur industry, just attempted to sell millions of ranch fur online and failed miserably. They are now claiming they are laying all staff off for three months.
We can't help but wonder with this pandemic and the upcoming widespread financial ramifications to come, who all will wind up buying furs? Add to that the growing fashion designers, stores, cities, and states ending the selling of fur.
Prior to this year's auction, the trapper owned Fur Harvesters, wrote, "FHA remains deeply committed to the trappers of North America on all levels." Well we know that but now we'll see.
Not long ago the fur industry was still estimated at $15 billion! 50,000 animals on average are reported trapped annually in Montana but that number is declining along with the price of fur. Millions of wildlife nationally have been estimated trapped in the US each year.
There are so many wrongs with trapping that there are multiple ways to attack it!
We can't wait to see the bottom fall out of this blood money! It can't happen soon enough, friends!
It isn't easy being wildlife in the first place. They need all the help and respect that they can get!
*Photo courtesy: Montana Trappers Association Western States Fur Auction