As he has for 50 years, John Borror ran a trapline through most of the furbearer season that closed last Wednesday. He didn’t have a lot of competition for the raccoons, coyotes, and bobcats he was after.
“There’s a lot of people who didn’t trap this. The fur market has gotten to where fur’s hardly worth anything at all,” said Borror, Kansas Fur Harvesters Association president. “I just do it because I love it. If you’re in it for money, these days there’s a lot of other things you’d do better with.”
Borror will be selling his collection he’s been working on since mid-November at a fur auction sponsored by his group in Abilene. He’s not expecting to get a lot of money. Some trappers also aren’t expecting to see a lot of fur for sale.
Dan Kvasic, a Salina trapper for more than 50 years, said he thinks the amount of fur will be less than half what it is most years.
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“If you could get a perfect coon, I’m talking in top 1 percent, you might get $3,” said Kvasic. “ …Most going to market are getting about a dollar. Three years ago you could get $18 on a really good one. This is the worst I’ve ever seen the fur market.”
He added that coyotes have been averaging about $8. That’s less than half from last year.
Borror and Kvasic talk of the good old days back in the late 1970s and 1980s, when a good coyote could get $70, a decent raccoon $25 and a top-end bobcat $250. Now many bobcats, probably the most coveted animal by Kansas trappers, sell for $20. That barely would cover the cost of some traps, of which many serious trappers put out several dozen at a time. Gasoline is another expense that’s hard to cover with this year’s prices.
Borror blamed low prices on the poor European economy, which is where many American furs end up. The high value of the American dollar also adds to the problem.
“What really hurts is that the China economy is bad. So much of our fur goes through there headed to Russia,” added Borror.
Still, interest in trapping remains pretty high in Kansas.
Matt Peek, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism furbearer biologist, said Kansas sold 6,943 trapping permits in 2016. That’s down from 8,935 in 2013. Still, he’s not worried.
“We’ve dropped close to 2,000, but last year we still sold more than we did any year from 1988 to 2011,” said Peek. “Looking at the long-term, we’re still pretty well off. Our low was in 1991 when we sold 3,434 licenses.”
Peek said he’d really seen an increased interest in trapping over about the past five years. New trappers, he said, like trapping enough in their early years that they’re more our for the fun and excitement than the money.
Kvasic said the number of trapping permits sold doesn’t really show how much effort trappers but into running lines this year. Many longtime trappers bought trapping permits early in the fall, while excited about a new season. The low prices make many not run traplines as long as usual, if at all.”
Borror said he plans on trapping next year, and the year after while he waits for the market to get better.
“It’s always had it’s cycles. You look back you can see all kinds of ups and downs,” he said. “The market has always come back up. I just hope it doesn’t take too long.”