Fur Marketing

Although most buyers will buy pelts “in the round” (whole), it is generally to the trapper’s advantage to skin and stretch his own furs, if possible. However, improperly cared-for furs can be a beat total loss, so it is important to seek advice from someone knowledgeable or to carefully study the instructions in this manual.


Well-cared-for furs give a trapper the satisfaction of having done a job well and completely, and the pay benefits in at least three other ways: 1) Properly skinned, stretched, and dried pelts are more valuable than whole animals; 2) The trapper who handles his own fur can present a larger “lot” of fur to a buyer, rather than a few animals at a time, and therefore has more bargaining leverage; and 3) Stretched and dried furs can be hauled, shipped, or stored more easily and allow the trapper to take advantage of the market or markets promising the highest return. Whole animals or “green” (wet, unstretched) pelts must usually be sold quickly and to a nearby buyer.


Frozen pelts should be thawed before being sold. Make sure that they are slowly thawed in a cool place. A wet hide can spoil in a few hours if it becomes too warm. Stretched and dried pelts should be removed from the stretcher and stored in a cool, well-aired place away from direct sunlight until it is time to sell them. Fur should be stored and shipped leather-to-leather or fur-to-fur, never leather-to-fur. Most trappers hang the fur in bundles from rafters or other areas. Care should be taken to see that mice cannot get at furs because their gnawing can do considerable damage. If the furs are to be stored for an extended period of time, regular fur cold storage (32° F) is advisable.

There are a number of ways to sell pelts, and it often pays to shop around before selling. These are some of the ways that a trapper can sell:

1) To a local fur buyer. These people sometimes advertise in newspapers and usually are known by most local trappers. An advantage of this method is personally dealing with the buyer.

2) A traveling fur buyer. These buyers usually make periodic visits to local sporting goods stores or other shops and they frequently advertise in newspapers. Like above, the trapper has the advantage of dealing personally with the buyer.

3) A mail firm. Some fur-buying companies buy pelts through the mail. These companies usually advertise in trapping magazines. Unfortunately, the trapper doesn’t get to deal with the buyer personally and the pelts must be packaged and mailed.

4) Fur buyers at a fur auction. These auctions are usually listed in trapping magazines and they may be run by trapper organizations or by private firms. The trapper does not get to deal personally with the buyers, but he can usually set a minimum bid or can bid on his own furs. Auctions have the advantage of competitive bidding, and usually, a small commission fee is charged.

If pelts are to be shipped, pack them flat, fur-to-fur, or skin-to-skin (never rolled or folded) in large burlap bags (sewn shut) or heavy boxes. Never ship furs in plastic bags because they can mildew and spoil. Make certain that all pelts are completely dry before shipping.


The trapper’s and consignee’s name and address should be clearly marked on the outside of the package. The trapper’s name, address, license number, and a list of the numbers and species of furs contained in the package should be enclosed and must be attached to the outside of the package. The trapper should also keep a copy of this list for his records. It is a good idea to ensure these shipments for their estimated value.


If furs are to be shipped to another country (Canada, for example) special regulations apply. Customs declaration forms are required for all furs shipped out of the country, and for some species, an export permit is required. Check the trapping regulations or contact an enforcement officer or customs official before taking or shipping any furs out of the country or they may be seized. Many trappers sending furs to Canadian auctions prefer to send them through a broker, who has the necessary permits and handles all of the paperwork for them.


Because trappers’ activities routinely bring them into contact with animals, they should be aware of diseases and parasites carried by wild animals and should take common-sense precautions. Since doctors may not routinely look for some types of diseases, which may be contracted from wildlife, it is the trapper’s responsibility to inform the doctor of his outdoor activities if a puzzling disease should develop.


The primary wildlife carrier of rabies in Minnesota is the striped skunk. Rabies is also occasionally found in foxes and raccoons but is very rare in all other Minnesota furbearers.


Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system and is usually transmitted in the saliva of an infected animal when it bites a non-infected animal. In addition to bites, the virus can enter through a cut or scratch while skinning an infected animal or by coming into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.


Rabies occurs in two forms in wildlife. In the “furious” form, the animal becomes irritable and aggressive, loses its fear, and may attack other animals. In the “dumb” form, the animal becomes lethargic and may suffer various forms of paralysis.


If you are bitten or scratched by any wild animal, wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water and contact a physician immediately. If possible, the animal involved should be captured or killed without damage to the head and refrigerated (not frozen). Trappers should avoid shooting skunks in the head (since most rabies virus is in the brain) and should wear rubber gloves while skinning. A new vaccine against rabies (Human Diploid Cell Vaccine – HDCV) is now available which provides some pre-exposure protection from rabies without serious side effects. Trappers who handle a lot of carnivores may want to consult with their doctor about getting this vaccine.


Tularemia is a bacterial disease of mammals found primarily in rabbits, beavers, and muskrats in Minnesota. The disease often results in white necrotic (dead) spots in the liver of infected animals. The disease can be transmitted to humans through cuts or scratches while skinning infected animals, from drinking contaminated water during water-borne outbreaks, from flea, tick, or insect bites, or rarely, from eating undercooked meat.

Lyme Disease

This is a relatively new disease caused by a spirochete (type of protozoan) transmitted by a small red and black tick commonly known as the deer or bear tick (not the tick commonly found on dogs). The disease is known to occur in east-central Minnesota and is characterized by circular skin lesions with possible headaches, nausea, or fever, and in some cases, arthritis in one or more joints and heart problems. Most exposures from this small tick occur from May through October. Doctors may not routinely look for this disease so people with these symptoms who may have been exposed to tick bites should inform their doctor of that fact.


A number of parasites, primarily tapeworms, can be contracted from wild animals if good hygiene is not practiced. One of the most serious of these is the tapeworm echinococcus, the larvae of which form cysts in the liver and lungs of humans, deer, moose, and livestock. Microscopic eggs of this tapeworm may be found in the feces of foxes, coyotes, wolves, or dogs, and human infection can result from contamination of hands and accidental ingestion of eggs.

Raccoons are host to a roundworm, which also sheds microscopic eggs in raccoon feces. Their eggs are not infective for about 30 days. They then can become airborne as dust and inhaled or can be accidentally ingested. People coming into contact with areas where raccoons have lived or concentrated such as in barns, chimneys, and attics or people who have pet raccoons are most susceptible to infection. The eggs hatch after ingestion and the microscopic larval worms migrate into the nervous system (spinal cord, brain) or into the eye. Symptoms are nervous system disorders and severe infections may result in death.


Red foxes and coyotes are commonly afflicted with a parasitic mite infestation, which causes a condition known as mange. The most common type of mange is sarcoptic mange and it is caused by microscopic mites that burrow in the skin and deposit their eggs as they go. With time, the eggs hatch, and the infestation increases to the point that the animal’s hair begins to fall out and the skin becomes thickened, crusted with scabs, and cracked. Mange is spread from animal to animal by contact. In Minnesota, this may become epidemic when red foxes are abundant and result in widespread die-offs. Mange is nearly always fatal to red foxes and coyotes but is seldom contracted by gray foxes. Trappers should take care in handling animals, which have mange since it is possible for humans to experience mild infections of the mites, which cause a red itching rash.


Trichinosis is caused by a nematode (roundworm) parasite, which produces the disease in man and many other domestic and wild animals. Nearly all mammals are susceptible to infection with this parasite, which encysts in the muscle of the host and is then transmitted by eating raw or poorly cooked meat. Infestations are often most severe in the well-oxygenated active muscles such as the diaphragm or eye muscles.


If carnivorous wild animals such as raccoons, bobcats, bears, or opossums are to be eaten, the meat should be properly prepared by cooking, freezing, or curing to destroy the encysted parasites. Cooking to an internal temperature of 137° F, or freezing at 5° F for 20 days, –10° F for 10 days, or –20° F for six days will kill trichinae. Curing should follow approved government regulations.


A few simple, common-sense precautions will greatly reduce the risks of contracting diseases or parasites from wild animals: 1) Wear plastic or rubber gloves when skinning or handling furbearers or scats; 2) Wash hands thoroughly after handling animals; 3) Avoid animals that are behaving abnormally or that are obviously sick; 4) Do not drink directly from streams or lakes; 5) Cook all wild game thoroughly; and 6) Inform your doctor of your wildlife-related activities if a puzzling illness should develop.


All earnings from trapping should be reported as regular income for tax purposes. However, a trapper should also keep accurate records and receipts of expenses incurred while trapping, most of which can be deducted. Traps and other equipment, which are purchased only for trapping can be deducted, either in a single year (for small purchases) or can be amortized over several years (for large purchases). If you keep a daily log with odometer readings, mileage can be deducted at a standard rate per mile. Other items, such as trapping cabins, can be deducted only if they are purchased or built solely for trapping. Trappers who trap as a hobby may deduct expenses only up to the amount of their earnings. Only trappers who trap as a business may claim a loss.


Every trapper has both a role and a stake in the future of trapping. Each trapper must work to become as knowledgeable about wildlife and trapping as possible; must be willing and able to share that knowledge with others; and must behave responsibly at all times.


Today’s society is becoming more and more dominated by people who have spent their entire lives in towns and cities and who have little practical understanding or appreciation of nature or life and death processes. Many of them have an idealized view of the natural world based on what they have learned through television or movies. Some have difficulty accepting the fact that death is a normal and essential part of the functioning of healthy ecosystems, and have an even more difficult time understanding and accepting death caused by humans. Some of these people are totally and strongly convinced that they are tight and no amount of information or persuasion is likely to change their minds. The majority, however, are basing their attitudes on the facts and information they have been exposed to, thus far and, given more information, they can come to a more balanced understanding.


It is essential for trappers to conduct themselves responsibly and to help educate others about wildlife and natural processes. This should not be done in a loud, arrogant, or condescending way, but quietly and with sincerity and respect for the feeling and beliefs of others. Realistically, you can never expect to change the minds of people who are strongly anti-trapping. The best you can hope for is that they will respect your position. However, if you present factual information in an honest and objective manner, you can influence people whose attitudes are not strongly held and who lack understanding of this complicated issue.

Fur Marketing

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