New Brunswick

Trapping season begins as desire for fur drops among usual buyers

As New Brunswick trappers gear up for another season in the woods they're facing some of the lowest prices for pelts in decades.

Last year's harvest was valued at a small fraction of what it was just a few years ago

Last year, the total value of fur harvest fell to a 24-year low. (CBC)

As New Brunswick trappers gear up for another season in the woods, they're facing some of the lowest prices for pelts in decades. 

The total value of the fur harvest fell to a 24-year low last season, according to the New Brunswick furbearer harvest report for 2015-2016. 

"Fur is a commodity," said Mitchell Schriver, vice-president of the New Brunswick Trappers and Fur Harvesters Federation.

"And furs fluctuate with the economies of the world." 

Schriver said the two largest fur markets in the world, China and Russia, just don't have the appetite for fur right now. 

"Russia's economy has been in the pits for a few years and that's really hurting it," said Scriver.

"And China hasn't been the greatest, but now China doesn't have a lot of competition now to drive those fur prices up." 

There are 13 New Brunswick species of the furbearers in the harvest report, including red fox, beaver, coyote, otter, raccoon and skunk.  

Bobcats are elusive in New Brunswick, but they are a native species with a population healthy enough to be hunted and trapped in the province. (CBC)

And last year, the price for every type of pelts fell — in some cases sharply — except for mink, which stayed relatively the same. 

For example, the price of a single muskrat pelt in 2001 was more than $12. This year it's worth a little over $3.

While the total number of licences sold has remained steady, the total value for the entire fur harvest last year hit a 24- year low, coming in at just over $375,930.

Compare that to being worth nearly $1.7 million in 2013. 

Schriver said low prices often mean fewer trappers in New Brunswick forests, and that translates into the smaller amounts being more evenly shared. 

"Some just go into the woods when prices are up," said Schriver. "But I love the outdoors, so that's where I'll be regardless."