After selling most of my marten hides earlier in the winter, here’s what we caught during the second half of the season: 7 lynx (minus the one that was eaten), 7 fox, 2 marten, and an ermine (weasel).
Alaska has some great fur. Marten are the biggest money makers for the amount of effort it takes to get them, but some of these red foxes are hard to beat with their deep, cherry color. Gorgeous foxes like these brought up to $700 each in the early 1900’s. Frank Glaser, an old-time trapper, made so much money on fox in 2 months out of the year that he kept a room rented in the nicest hotel in Fairbanks year round for when he was in town and bought every new rifle that came out during that time.
My fur buyer is only a short drive away, but it’s always a good idea to use plastic bags or something to protect your dry furs when shipping or moving them. You don’t want to get docked because you dropped your prime fur in the mud!
It’s a funny thing to think that all of my hard work has now come down to a couple of garbage bags full of fur. It’s the same feeling you get when you sit down to eat a venison steak and realize that all of your efforts last fall have turned into the piece of meat on the plate in front of you.
Bill, owner of Arctic Raw Fur Company puts a sealing tag in one of my lynx. Being a fur buyer is a different kind of business. Part old timer, part global analyst, he has to make his best guesses as to how the market will be for each type of fur, and adjust what he pays accordingly. Much like playing the stock market, it can be a huge gamble, but can have big payoffs as well.
Several species of furbearers in Alaska such as lynx, wlf, wolverine, river otter, and a few others depending on the area must be “sealed.” This involves taking information on where the animals were harvested from and putting a locking tag in the hide to show they have been recorded.
Bill is busy sorting my hides by species and quality. He judges the quality of lynx by the coloring and quality of hair on the belly. Most of the lynx go to either China or Russia and are often used for trim on expensive fur garments. The biggest male lynx with the whitest bellies bring the best prices.
A trapper can also pick up a lot of supplies at Bill’s, including traps, lures, stretcher boards and other pieces of fur handling equipment.
I always enjoy seeing what pictures he has up on the board. This is an albino marten, which are extremely rare. I think Bill said he has seen 2 of them. What’s especially weird, is the orange coloration of the fur, even with the red albino eyes.
Right above that, is a picture of probably the toughest critter in Alaska pound for pound. Ermine are very abundant in most of Alaska, and are vicious little critters! Although I see their tracks nearly every time I go out, I have only caught one.
This is the only Ermine (weasel) I have ever caught. As you can see, they aren’t the biggest critter in the woods, but they have been known to kill full grown chickens. I’m not sure why I haven’t caught more, as they aren’t especially cunning, and are constantly on the prowl for food.
A good sampling of Alaskan fur: wolverine, fox, marten, lynx and I think there’s even a wolf in there somewhere.
Bill tallying up the totals after sorting through my pile of fur. It turned out that I was left wishing I had held on to my other 30 marten that I had sold early. When I sold most of them, the big males were going for $65, and the females for $35. I had two females in this bunch that went for $60, and males are bringing $90 now. That shows how much the market can fluctuate over a few months.
A grand total of $888 for this batch of fur with the best fox bringing $40, best lynx $150, marten $60, and Ermine at a whopping $3. You’ll be hard pressed getting rich by trapping, but I’m not a trapper because I want to make a ton of money. For me, it’s more about getting to spend the winter in the woods with my friends and family.
Even in the north, snow is melting and spring is upon us. For me, this means it’s time to sell the fur I spent all winter trapping.