After years of decline during the American anti-fur movement, trapping became a more lucrative in the past year, Illinois Department of Natural Resources reported this month.
Spring Valley native Denny Entwistle of Morris can attest to that. A lot of people stopped trapping altogether as pelt prices declined.
“It was bad years back. Probably three years ago we probably averaged $12 or $13 for a raccoon,” Entwistle said Aug. 11 at Celebrations 150 in La Salle, where he was displaying some of his duck carvings at the Illinois Valley Hunting and Fishing Collectibles Show. He and his son, Zach, averaged $32 per raccoon during the past year and sold one pelt for $69 at the North American Fur Auction in Montreal, Canada.
The 2012-13 Illinois Fur Harvest Survey, which estimates numbers and values of pelts sold by hunters and trappers, shows the total number of pelts sold was 200,913, an increase of 11 percent from 2011-12.
According to the same press release, the value of pelts sold by fur-takers increased 62 percent to $2.5 million. Favorable global markets lifted pelt prices to levels not seen since the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Entwistle said a lot of the buyers currently are from China, Greece and Russia.
Sales of Illinois trapping licenses increased from 4,996 in 2011-12 to 6,384 in 2012-13; this was the largest number of licenses sold since 1988-89.
The first modern season for trapping river otter in Illinois occurred in 2012-13, with a harvest of 2,002 pelts (approximately 13 percent of the statewide population). Trappers targeting river otters also captured beavers, which contributed to a 67 percent increase in harvest of this species.
Sales of coyote pelts increased 124 percent, spurred by an average value of $17.60 per pelt. Entwistle said they sold some coyote pelts for $40.
Entwistle said when he was growing up in the 1970s, trapping was extremely popular for Illinois Valley residents and midwesterners. In fall and winter, he runs traps at locations between Spring Valley and Morris, and he also hunts for ducks in the Spring Valley area.
“When I was in high school, raccoon brought $35 and minimum wage was $1.65, so you’d go find a raccoon,” he said.
The full Fur Harvest Survey report is available on the IDNR website at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/news/Documents/FURSUMM1213.pdf