Cold weather means prime pelts for Yukon trappers

Trapping has its good years and bad years. After a few dismal ones the Yukon Trappers Association says the territory is finally seeing some prime pelts this year. It's all thanks to recent cold weather.

Yukon Trappers Association says this year's pelts are excellent and could fetch top dollar

Brian Melanson sews up a beaver pelt in Whitehorse in this CBC file photo. He says this year's cold weather has been good news for Yukon trappers. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

At least someone's happy about this year's cold weather in Yukon.  

Brian Melanson of the Yukon Trappers Association says this year's wild pelts are looking great. 

It's a relief after the last few years. 

"This year looks to be a bumper crop year. A lot of families and trappers have gone out there. They got out early this year in mid-October," he said. "They're coming out with a very large percentage of absolutely prime pelts. The cold winter that we've had has allowed the fur to thicken up richly." 

Melanson says wolf, lynx and marten pelts are looking especially thick this year.  

Last year warmer temperatures did not lead to very good pelts and open water kept trappers from travelling on the land. 

Trapping is hard work and is not a very lucrative pursuit at the best of times, so any increase in revenue is much appreciated, Melanson said.

Melanson says trappers aren't bringing in more animals than usual. But the pelts they're seeing are especially thick. That means they could be labelled "select" by the auction house and they could fetch about 60 per cent more than furs labelled a "one" or "two."  

Prime pelts are thicker and make for warmer garments, says the Yukon Trappers Association's Brian Melanson. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Association working with local crafters

The Yukon Trappers Association has been holding workshops in different communities this year, trying to get more people out on the land. 

The association has 180 members who've paid membership dues and about 50 people who've let their membership elapse but still receive the group's newsletter, Melanson says.  

The next wild fur harvesters' auction will be held in North Bay Ontario on March 9. Another follows on May 24th. 

These international auctions are the main source of revenue for Yukon trappers. 

However this year the Yukon Trappers' Association has also been selling furs directly to local crafters after paying trappers in advance for beaver, muskrat fox and other smaller pelts. 

This year Yukon furs will be showcased at the Arctic Winter Games, as athletes will be wearing wolf fur pom-poms.

Prime furs can fetch up to 60 per cent more at auction. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Awards to be given in Whitehorse 

This year the Yukon Trappers Association and the North Yukon Renewable resource Council have been holding events in Whitehorse. This includes sewing classes teaching people how to make pom-poms and ruffs from fur. 

The new public outreach initiative called Unfurled is supported in part by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, the Yukon government, the Council of Yukon First Nations and other sponsors.   

The new campaign is stressing that fur is a "buy local" product, and its motto is that Yukon furs are "wild, sustainable and warm."

An award ceremony is scheduled for 5pm on the March 9 at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse. The Yukon Trappers Association will be giving out prizes for best wolverine, wolf, coyote, fox, lynx, beaver and marten pelt. 

The association is also holding its first Fur Ball fashion show and dance on March 10 in Whitehorse after a day of speakers and demonstrations at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. 

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