Demand for fur has market at 30-year high, Montana trappers say

2013-12-26T06:30:00Z 2014-08-31T11:56:42Z Demand for fur has market at 30-year high, Montana trappers say

The demand for fur is on the rise and prices are booming, providing a windfall to Montana trappers who say their industry has hit a 30-year high.

And market indicators suggest the demand – and the prices that follow – will continue to increase as buyers in China, Russia and Korea watch their incomes grow.

“Trappers are seeing an increase in their paychecks in the state of Montana,” said Toby Walrath, president of the Montana Trappers Association. “The market is strong and improving. It’s a good time to be a trapper right now.”

Montana trappers received $2.7 million in income in 2012 from the sale of raw fur, according to the Montana Trappers Association. This year’s state auction also paid out $230,000 for the pelts of prized species, including those monitored by state game officials.

Walrath, who heads the state organization from his Corvallis home, said the money brought in by trappers circulates beyond the trapping community. It extends to taxidermists, in-state furriers, hotels and sporting good stores, such as Wholesale Sports in Missoula, which now sells trapping supplies.

“The economic impact is pretty significant,” Walrath said. “I think it’s far more significant than people realize. There’s money to be made by lots of people.”

Walrath’s confidence in the industry has been backed by national reports. A recent story by National Public Radio said the retail fur industry held an estimated worth of $15.5 billion last year – an increase of 45 percent from 10 years ago.

The jump in prices is driven largely by overseas demand, where residents in China, Russia and Korea are seeing their incomes grow. Residents in wealthier countries like Canada, Sweden and Switzerland also remain buyers.

Fashion designers are driving the trade’s resurgence by incorporating more fur into their clothing lines. One British magazine reported that nearly 70 percent of fall collections included some form of fur.

Walrath’s own pelts have been fashioned into mittens and hats.

“In China, fur is a fashion statement, and they’re looking at the longer coats,” Walrath said. “In Russia, it’s more of a practical use than a fashion statement. In the U.S., fur is being used for trim around hoods on coats, cuffs on sleeves, and collars, things like that.”


Current estimates suggest Montana is home to 6,000 active trappers and houndsmen. Rising pelt prices provide most trappers with a supplementary income. For a few, Walrath said, fur sales may represent their primary income.

Trappers have several options when selling their furs. They may work directly with a furrier, or trust their pelts to a country buyer, who works on behalf of a national furrier looking for pelts of certain species, color and quality.

National and international auction houses also buy directly from trappers. Walrath said auction house representatives collect furs periodically from certain drop-off points across the state.

“The fur is shipped to that auction house, the buyers come, they bid and pay the money, and the house cuts the trappers a check,” Walrath said. “If you bring it to a state-sanctioned auction or an international auction, you’ll receive more money than if you go to a country buyer.”

In many cases, the furs harvested from Montana might be sold alongside pelts taken from mink ranches and fox farms. Whatever the offering, Walrath said, the buyers compete for the furs, driving up prices as they bid.

The larger auctions include those held by the North American Fur Auction, headquartered in Toronto, and Fur Harvester Auction Inc., based in North Bay, Ontario.

“You don’t really know what prices you’ll receive beforehand,” Walrath said. “Asking what a fur is worth is like asking what your house is worth, or what your car is worth. It depends on the quality, the season, how it was handled, and what’s in demand at that time.”

All states but one also claim an active trappers association, which hold annual fur sales. The sale hosted by the Montana Trappers Association attracts five to 10 national buyers each year.


Jim Buell, who lives in Gildford and serves as director of the National Trappers Association, said Montana trappers display their pelts at the state auction, and buyers name their price through a silent bid.

“The Montana Trappers Association holds a fur sale each spring, around the third week in March, and there are several fur buyers who attend that sale,” said Buell. “By that time, there’s usually a sale in Toronto, so local buyers can set their prices off the international market.”

Prices are increasing for bobcat pelts, as well as marten, Walrath said. Other articles, including mink and beaver, are flat. Beaver pelts are difficult to prepare, cutting into the price margin and driving up costs.

Walrath said the price of a pelt may also be set by where the animal was harvested. A raccoon fur from Montana, he said for example, will typically fetch a higher price than the same pelt taken from South Carolina.

“There’s a very high demand for furs, particularly muskrat, in China,” said Walrath. “They’re buying a lot of fur and they’re paying really good prices for it. There’s a big population of people there, and they have money to spend on that stuff.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(32) Comments

  1. oldie
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    oldie - December 29, 2013 1:02 pm
    to "Fur is Murder", here you say:

    Is it OK to snap someone's neck in order to steal their fur?

    Well, that's one way of putting it. But I believe a more accurate description of stealing their fur would be like this;

    You take a sharp knife, and you slice the skin on their backs, and then you peel that skin off their backs with a pair of pliers.

    So you don't really steal it. You take it. It's yours. After you do all that work, right?

    Don't you think that is a more accurate description of what trappers do for a living? Or for cigarette money? Or for their daily teenth maybe? Or whatever it is that they feel they need at the moment?

    Jus wundrin, ya know?
  2. oldie
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    oldie - December 29, 2013 12:41 pm
    I wonder why China and Russia don't trap thier own animals instead of coming all the way over here to buy ours? That doesn't make sense, does it. After all, just look at the size of Siberia alone. You could put 10 Montanas in the Siberian wilderness alone. And look at the size of China. Where are all the Chinese trappers now-a-days?

    Does this article mean that they have trapped out Siberia? My God? How could that happen? How could it happen, what with the sound ecological, and ethical practices used by trappers? There must be some kind of mistake somewhere.

    I know, we are just a whole lot smarter than those Russians and Chinese. Sure that's the answer. We wouldn't ever be so dumb as to shoot the last beaver, or raccoon, or wolf, would we. Oh no, not us. We are too smart for that now. Unless the price was right of course. And the price is usually just about always right, isn't it. Then it's "a man's gotta do, what a man's gotta do", right?

  3. Run - A- Mook
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    Run - A- Mook - December 28, 2013 2:38 pm

    ""genital electrocution" Why must we bring in Sec. Kerry?
  4. Run - A- Mook
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    Run - A- Mook - December 27, 2013 11:14 pm
    could be
  5. Run - A- Mook
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    Run - A- Mook - December 27, 2013 11:12 pm
    @Bitters -below--

    Oh, I see you are above and beyond, question.
  6. 2buck2
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    2buck2 - December 27, 2013 9:26 am
    And when you look in the mirror I suppose you think you see something sexy, huh?
  7. 2buck2
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    2buck2 - December 27, 2013 9:24 am
    Kind of lost me with the "Chinese have money to spend" comment. The majority of China...not wealthy. Scraping by actually.
  8. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - December 26, 2013 6:29 pm
    Ummmmm, because they made note of it in their comment on this public forum. Any other questions? (As long as they don't pertain to anything in my comments)
  9. Lobo Bandito
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    Lobo Bandito - December 26, 2013 6:17 pm
    Oh my bad, I didn't know Chewy wanted to split wolf hairs. To set the record straight I will be detailed for you as it is you who are incorrect. You speak of the early 80s so I'll go from there. In the 80's we had wolves, Canis Lupus Occidentalis, migrating down into the Glacier park area from Alberta and British Columbia. We also had(then) native wolves, Canis Lupus Irremotus, here in Western Montana that had been surviving all along. The Occidentalis subspecies is the wolves that were TRAPPED by foothold and also tranq'd from helicopter and introduced into Idaho and Yellowstone, on Wyoming's side of the border line. No wolves were directly released onto Montana soil, but wolves that were released into Wyoming on the Montana border did wander into Montana. The Wolves were released into Lamar Valley, Wy. This is a couple miles from MONTANA. The average wolf packs territory in YNP is 348sq miles and they can travel 70 miles per day. meaning the state of Montana was habitat for the first relocated wolves. So Chewy, there, it pretty much happened. You can split hairs if you want but when the Gov relocated wolves onto the BORDER of Montana I feel pretty accurate in saying we had wolves relocated into Montana. If the Gov released 50 sewer rats into the storm drain across your street, I wouldn't argue if you said that they released them onto your property as it would sound pretty "misinformed". I sure hope I can sleep tonight knowing I may have a chance of having "credibility" with you.
  10. Re-Made in Montana
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    Re-Made in Montana - December 26, 2013 4:59 pm
    And how much somebody spends at a sporting goods store is your business... why?
  11. trapperman21
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    trapperman21 - December 26, 2013 4:40 pm
    Chewy where did the wolf recolonize in Montana in the 80's?
  12. Run - A- Mook
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    Run - A- Mook - December 26, 2013 3:55 pm
    Chewy, try > ... > Montana challenge > Vignettes
  13. Chewy
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    Chewy - December 26, 2013 2:58 pm
    You are soo misinformed. If you want any credibility tell us when and where trapped wolves were relocated to Montana.
    You can't do it because it never happened. Wolves naturally recolonized Montana starting in the early 80's. There was no re-introduction in Montana.
    The rest of your post is too off topic and stupid to bother with.
  14. Snowcrest
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    Snowcrest - December 26, 2013 11:08 am
    @ rajaju,, Your math is based on a flawed presumption. You assume their trapping income is their only income. My neighbor traps, guides big game hunts,sells shed antlers he picks up every spring and earns some income from his stocks. He tells me he makes about 50k yearly and pays his taxes and his child support.
  15. Bittersweet
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    Bittersweet - December 26, 2013 10:56 am
    A few thousand dollars a year in one sporting goods store? Seriously? How many Camo seat covers and antler window stickers does one need?
  16. Run - A- Mook
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    Run - A- Mook - December 26, 2013 10:33 am
    rajaju, just a question. Where did you get?, "that means 135 people
    make 20 k a year from it." Before you jump on me, I read the article
    and the comments. There was a mention of 6000 fur trappers and
    houndsmen. Also the $ figure 2.7 million in 2012 and a state auction
    paid out $230,000. Just asking were did the number 135 come from?
  17. rajaju
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    rajaju - December 26, 2013 10:24 am
    I think the last statement "To snap someones neck to steal their fur " makes alot more of a statement than " Gin up" or jus wundrin" the educational system is full of failures I'm sure, but only the real men choose to flaunt it..........right
  18. Nick D
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    Nick D - December 26, 2013 9:20 am
    That prior comment should read "but I'm questioning whether I should rethink my decision."
  19. Nick D
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    Nick D - December 26, 2013 9:19 am
    I would estimate that I spend a few thousand dollars a year at Wholesale Sports, but I'm not questioning whether I should rethink my decision. I can spend my money locally at places like Bob Wards and also not support an outdated and barbaric practice (not to mention the bigotry I've overheard a few times by Wholesale employees).
  20. jus wundrin
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    jus wundrin - December 26, 2013 9:11 am
    They dont know anything about trapping. What they do know is how to gin up the emotionally challenged in order to get more donations for their fave enviro group, or garner votes for some insipid legislation.

    Its just fear mongering, nothing more.
  21. YBChat
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    YBChat - December 26, 2013 8:52 am
    I'm not sure who I feel the most contempt for-the trappers or the Chinese who are slaughtering wildlife around the globe.
  22. rajaju
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    rajaju - December 26, 2013 8:44 am
    Lets see if I do the math......not usually done in MT...that means 135 people make 20 k a year from it , lets see poverty is what 17k a year, the people that trap are by economic standards lowlifes that suck a living because they either 1) can't get a job or 2) don't wanna work,and the addage that people try is "It suppliments my income" , I ask whats your other income , "WELFARE"
  23. BWO
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    BWO - December 26, 2013 8:03 am
    Well, Wholesale Sports, I won't be spending any money at your store anymore either. How about we count up the number of dogs trapped in the last few months? The by-catch is astoundingly heartless. Trapping is an uncivilized activity. Period. It should not be sanctioned by the State. Where is the Governor on this issue?
  24. Deadwolf
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    Deadwolf - December 26, 2013 6:06 am
    "fur for Murder", your comments prove you know absolutely nothing about trapping. I have seen some pretty ridiculous comments over the years, yours nears the top.
  25. RobertR
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    RobertR - December 26, 2013 5:33 am
    Where is Filip Panusz in this debate. Seems like he always hides.? Again the fear mongering myths these people like Jannet create about trapping are just that.
  26. Lobo Bandito
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    Lobo Bandito - December 26, 2013 2:00 am
  27. Lobo Bandito
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    Lobo Bandito - December 26, 2013 1:49 am
    If trapping is so horrific then why did so many pro-wolf people donate millions of dollars to have wolves TRAPPED and relocated into Montana? The foothold trap is human when the state laws are followed... yes it can be horrific when the rules aren't followed, just like guns on school property. Its horrific when people break the rules and start massacring kids with guns at school but totally fine and actually a necesity when those trained to protect have them on campus. Fur is Murder has obviously never trapped an animal and is speaking of fear of the unknown. Heck pretty good odds he/she donated to have wolves trapped for relocation and is a hypocrite. Ironic how many animal lovers can fund reintroduction, introduction, repopulation and relocation to be done with traps but when one wants to use a trap to make money off a renewable resource, help manage numbers or remove problem animals they cry foul and file lawsuits. For those of you reading this that have no experience how trapping is done the ethical way and the benefit it has done for animal species while not harming the animals watch this video from YouTube called Destroying the Myth (trapping). It shows the reality of trapping. Kind of like explaining that guns aren't the evil that the Brady ccampaign would like you to believe. Yes guns and traps can be used for evil but that doesn't mean they should be outlawed to the people who follow the laws because of a handful of crazy people.
  28. sep924
    Report Abuse
    sep924 - December 26, 2013 12:38 am
    Not to mention all the non-target animals that are killed or maimed in traps.
  29. sep924
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    sep924 - December 26, 2013 12:35 am
    It's back to the Dark Ages. And for what -- "fashion"? Sickening.
  30. Bittersweet
    Report Abuse
    Bittersweet - December 26, 2013 12:12 am
    Are you speaking of trapping wild animals or abortion of humans?
  31. logger
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    logger - December 26, 2013 12:08 am
    This story is hilarious! come PETA hasn't opened a Peking chapter. I love it that "70% of fall collections have fur"....HMmm....certainly China doesn't make up 70%.....could it be that fur is back among the beautifull people....and the animal rights crowd is just rude, boring, and self righteous annoying people who just aren't that attractive.
  32. Fur is Murder
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    Fur is Murder - December 25, 2013 8:19 pm
    Editors Note: There is no mention of the absolute horrors that animals tortured for their fur experience! We are talking about gassing, trapping, anal & genital electrocution. Is it OK to snap someone's neck in order to steal their fur?
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