2021-22 Fur Market Report

By Troy Hoepker

As my pickup rolled to a stop I detected movement a quarter-mile away near the creek crossing in my pasture. A quick glance through the binoculars confirmed a fox desperately engaged in a tug-of-war with the chain attached to the trap gripping his leg at one of my dirt hole sets. Walking towards the trapped little vixen, I became absorbed with the atmosphere around me. The chilly overnight had blanketed every tree and blade of grass in a heavy coat of silvery frost. One would have thought I had trapped a silver fox looking at that little red, her back covered in a frosty glaze blending her in with the surroundings. It was my second fox catch in as many days, both caught within a few yards of one another and as I dispatched the animal and remade the set I never once thought of how the fox’s value was hardly worth the effort. Instead, I was delighted that I had finally outsmarted a duo of these critters that had escaped me for a couple of weeks. Mornings like that were for the love of trapping!

I couldn’t bring myself to sell those skinned fully prime fox pelts for the fur buyer’s offer of $5 apiece and chose to have them tanned instead. I think even the buyer felt a degree of guilt offering me such a low price for such beautiful pelts that we both felt should demand better value. But I knew it was all he could honestly offer in a market such as this. That, in a nutshell, is the experience I think all of us have had selling fur the last few years.

There is sure to be more disappointment felt this upcoming fur season as we continue to recover from Covid-19 and there is finally optimism in the market. Better clearance of items seen at auction means less backlog of skins and baby steps towards higher prices and increased future demand. Stores are open and selling even if it is at a slower sales rate of garments. This is far better than a year ago.

Fur Harvesters Inc. the only major auction house left in North America held sales in April and July of this year. Unfortunately, both sales were still restricted to online sales for buyers of other countries but results have rebounded a tad in some areas and offered a few pleasant surprises especially in muskrat, coyote and lynx cat. Using results from these sales and other market indicators, I’ll attempt to give you an expectation of what your Iowa furs may bring this season=

Expect beaver prices to be discounted again this year. Both Fur Harvesters Inc. auctions this year saw very low interest and low clearance on beaver fur with most skins sold finding a home in the hatter market for the making of felt hats. Limited interest and high supply translate once again into a dismal market for beaver. Expect Iowa beaver to bring $5-8 range with larger, fully prime skins bringing $8-12. The money isn’t in the fur of beaver but it is in the castoreum. Reduced beaver trapping in recent years still has this market sky high with prices reaching $100 per pound.

Raccoon prices are similar to beaver, but there is even less interest at this time. Sales of raccoon hardly moved at auction and if there is any certainty in this market, it is that raccoon prices will remain low again this year. Trap when they are at peak, and you still may only average $5 or less on fully put up average size coon. Extremely large hides fully prime may fetch a couple dollars more. But expect carcass coon to be turned away by most buyers.

Muskrat are one of the pleasant surprises as of late! Muskrat sales often follow ranch mink upturns and even though mink sales have only slightly improved, the clearance of muskrat was spectacular at both Fur Harvester Inc. sales. Average prices crept over the $5 mark at both sales which was twice as high as last year’s sale prices and 99% of goods moved. Expect your buyer to be interested in your rat collection and offer between $2-4 per specimen.

While ranched mink prices improved a bit and clearance was higher than expected, our wild mink prices will lag behind this year, likely seeing similar prices as last year. A fully put up large male with feet attached could bring you close to a $5 dollar bill but expect most specimens to run $2-3.

Otter prices will still likely remain low. There has been improved clearance of this animal but only a very slight uptick in price at international auction. Eventually they will move better and maybe this is the year but as of now, speculation is that the biggest and best Iowa otter could fetch $20 but expect average otters of $5 to $8 less than that. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Demand for red fox is very low. Even very good pelts aren’t moving. A $5 average for anything skinned out and clean of holes is what you should expect again this year.

Lynx cat interest is improving and Iowa cats may be the hardest to predict this early. This February I sold a drab 20-pound female for $25. Large males with wide spotted bellies will hopefully bring considerably more. Lets hope some recent interest in this item will bring more demand for our flatter-furred Iowa cats to see some movement. I’m guessing this item will jump up a tad in price, maybe $10-15 higher than we saw last year.

Skunk actually sold well at auction and if you’ve got the gusto to put up the hide, you might see a 5-dollar bill from a buyer. Badger sales went mainly unsold in April but moved in the July sale. This species will remain sluggish here.

Coyote is the market’s strongest item. Buyers at auction are aggressively competing for the best coyote skins for the trim trade, which should translate to our Iowa coyote furs moving very well and at a price we should be happy with. Skin every coyote you can and see $25-35 for good prime skins, with reductions for lesser quality.