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Economy pelts trappers

The wooden box outside the Department of Natural Resources office is piled high with frozen carcasses. They are red and lean and sinewy. In the January dusk, they look as if they could be furless whippets.

The wooden box outside the Department of Natural Resources office is piled high with frozen carcasses. They are red and lean and sinewy. In the January dusk, they look as if they could be furless whippets.

But they're not. They're bobcats.

This is a Tuesday in early January, one of two fur registration days the DNR holds each trapping season. One by one, throughout the day, trappers appear to register their bobcats and otters.

Scott Waldorf of Barnum tosses another bobcat carcass on the grisly heap and proceeds inside to register one bobcat fur and one otter fur. DNR area wildlife manager Rich Staffon inspects the furs, notes their gender and where they were taken, then slips a plastic tag through their nostrils.

Under federal law, the furs must be tagged by a state agency before being transported across state lines. Nearly all furs taken in Minnesota end up at fur auctions in Canada, and ultimately may be made into garments in China or Russia or Europe.

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Waldorf isn't sure how much his bobcat might bring.

"I've been hearing about $80, but it varies," he says.

MARKET DOWN

It varies by the vagaries of the global fur market, by the size and condition of the pelt, by the skill of the trapper who fleshed it out and stretched it. And this year, like everything else, the fur market has been affected by the global economic crisis.

"In one word, I can sum it all up: The fur market is very depressed," says Gary Meis of Bruno, president of the Minnesota Trappers Association. "The global economy has taken a huge bite out of the fur industry."

Meis sold bobcats earlier this winter for an $80 average.

"That's about half of what I got in the past," he says.

Otters might bring $30 this year, down from about $100 in 2006.

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Two small Canadian fur auctions were held this past week. Depending on prices paid there, some trappers may decide to sell at larger Canadian auctions in February and March, says Dan Croke, a longtime Duluth trapper. And some may elect not to sell, he said.

"Some guys are tanning some of their stuff, and some guys are leaving it in the freezer," Croke says.

Many furs simply aren't selling at all at the Canadian auctions, Meis says. Those furs will be sold at later auctions or be put in cold storage for sale in coming years.

"I can guarantee everyone this: We are in forSam Cook

scook@duluthnews.com

The wooden box outside the Department of Natural Resources office is piled high with frozen carcasses. They are red and lean and sinewy. In the January dusk, they look as if they could be furless whippets.

But they're not. They're bobcats.

This is a Tuesday in early January, one of two fur registration days the DNR holds each trapping season. One by one, throughout the day, trappers appear to register their bobcats and otters.

ADVERTISEMENT

Scott Waldorf of Barnum tosses another bobcat carcass on the grisly heap and proceeds inside to register one bobcat fur and one otter fur. DNR area wildlife manager Rich Staffon inspects the furs, notes their gender and where they were taken, then slips a plastic tag through their nostrils.

Under federal law, the furs must be tagged by a state agency before being transported across state lines. Nearly all furs taken in Minnesota end up at fur auctions in Canada, and ultimately may be made into garments in China or Russia or Europe.

Waldorf isn't sure how much his bobcat might bring.

"I've been hearing about $80, but it varies," he says.

MARKET DOWN

It varies by the vagaries of the global fur market, by the size and condition of the pelt, by the skill of the trapper who fleshed it out and stretched it. And this year, like everything else, the fur market has been affected by the global economic crisis.

"In one word, I can sum it all up: The fur market is very depressed," says Gary Meis of Bruno, president of the Minnesota Trappers Association. "The global economy has taken a huge bite out of the fur industry."

Meis sold bobcats earlier this winter for an $80 average.

"That's about half of what I got in the past," he says.

Otters might bring $30 this year, down from about $100 in 2006.

Two small Canadian fur auctions were held this past week. Depending on prices paid there, some trappers may decide to sell at larger Canadian auctions in February and March, says Dan Croke, a longtime Duluth trapper. And some may elect not to sell, he said.

"Some guys are tanning some of their stuff, and some guys are leaving it in the freezer," Croke says.

Many furs simply aren't selling at all at the Canadian auctions, Meis says. Those furs will be sold at later auctions or be put in cold storage for sale in coming years.

"I can guarantee everyone this: We are in for a long haul with the depressed fur market," Meis says.

BOBCAT TO MOUNT

Craig Sunnarborg of Esko comes into the office now carrying a bobcat pelt in a plastic bag. He presents it to Staffon along with his trapping license. Sunnarborg is not concerned about the price a bobcat might bring this winter. He plans to have this one mounted. It's a handsome pelt, an off-white mottled with tan and black spots. You can almost imagine the creature, perfectly adapted to a northern winter, easing softly across the top of the snow on its big pads.

Sunnarborg figures the cat weighed about 25 pounds. They can get as large as 45 pounds, Staffon says. He knows of one that was documented taking down a 6-month-old whitetail fawn.

Sunnarborg trapped his bobcat using a size 220 Conibear trap, which snaps shut on the animal's neck, killing it almost instantly. Some trappers use wire snares to take bobcats.

Before coming inside, he had deposited his bobcat's carcass on the pile outside. DNR researchers use the carcasses to check the ages of the animals. By comparing the number of juveniles to adults in the population, biologists can determine the status of the population. More young bobcats means good reproduction and a healthy population, Staffon says. That research helps biologists and game managers set limits for various species. The current bobcat limit is five.

UPS AND DOWNS

Based on registrations so far this year in the Cloquet work area, both the bobcat and otter populations seem to be up, Staffon says. Martens and fishers, registered in December, were down slightly.

After a short time, trapper Brad Bunge of Wrenshall brings in two bobcats to be registered. He had caught one earlier in the year, too, and had registered it in December.

"For some unknown reason, I got no fisher or marten," Bunge says. "And I normally don't get three bobcats."

With fur prices down, Bunge says he won't sell his bobcat pelts. He'll have them garment-tanned. At some point, he might have them made into a jacket.

"I had a jacket made for my wife from beaver with a bobcat collar," Bunge says.

He estimates it would take 11 to 15 bobcat pelts to make a short jacket.

About 5,000 to 6,000 trappers go afield each fall and winter in Minnesota, down from 15,000 or more in the 1980s when prices were consistently higher. a long haul with the depressed fur market," Meis says.

BOBCAT TO MOUNT

Craig Sunnarborg of Esko comes into the office now carrying a bobcat pelt in a plastic bag. He presents it to Staffon along with his trapping license. Sunnarborg is not concerned about the price a bobcat might bring this winter. He plans to have this one mounted. It's a handsome pelt, an off-white mottled with tan and black spots. You can almost imagine the creature, perfectly adapted to a northern winter, easing softly across the top of the snow on its big pads.

Sunnarborg figures the cat weighed about 25 pounds. They can get as large as 45 pounds, Staffon says. He knows of one that was documented taking down a 6-month-old whitetail fawn.

Sunnarborg trapped his bobcat using a size 220 Conibear trap, which snaps shut on the animal's neck, killing it almost instantly. Some trappers use wire snares to take bobcats.

Before coming inside, he had deposited his bobcat's carcass on the pile outside. DNR researchers use the carcasses to check the ages of the animals. By comparing the number of juveniles to adults in the population, biologists can determine the status of the population. More young bobcats means good reproduction and a healthy population, Staffon says. That research helps biologists and game managers set limits for various species. The current bobcat limit is five.

UPS AND DOWNS

Based on registrations so far this year in the Cloquet work area, both the bobcat and otter populations seem to be up, Staffon says. Martens and fishers, registered in December, were down slightly.

After a short time, trapper Brad Bunge of Wrenshall brings in two bobcats to be registered. He had caught one earlier in the year, too, and had registered it in December.

"For some unknown reason, I got no fisher or marten," Bunge says. "And I normally don't get three bobcats."

With fur prices down, Bunge says he won't sell his bobcat pelts. He'll have them garment-tanned. At some point, he might have them made into a jacket.

"I had a jacket made for my wife from beaver with a bobcat collar," Bunge says.

He estimates it would take 11 to 15 bobcat pelts to make a short jacket.

About 5,000 to 6,000 trappers go afield each fall and winter in Minnesota, down from 15,000 or more in the 1980s when prices were consistently higher.

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