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Fur prices may decline in 2014
Pelts from the NWT going to 'fur auctions of the century' in Finland

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 27, 2014

Prices for wild fur may stabilize or decline slightly this year, but trapping is still a viable option for NWT residents, according to a government official.

nnsl photo

During a snaring, skinning and pelting workshop in Fort Simpson on Feb. 20, Peter Corneille, left, and John Tsetso worked with Andy Chartrand of Fur Harvesters Auction to make lynx snares. - photo courtesy of Kelly Pennycook

Last year was a great year for wild fur prices, said Francois Rossouw, who oversees fur marketing for the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment. The Genuine Mackenzie Valley Furs Program had $2.3 million in total sales last year, $1.7 million of which was from martin. Martin pelts, on average, sold for $155, "which is huge," said Rossouw, compared to $105 in 2012.

"It's great when prices go up, but prices will go down," he said.

This year Rossouw expects to see prices stabilize or decline slightly. Fur is an international market that Chinese and Asian buyers are the primary drivers of. China alone is responsible for 80 per cent of the buying and re-exporting market, he said. A large percentage of furs from the NWT go to China.

One of the benefits of the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Furs Program is that trappers are paid a set price for their fur. If the pelts sell for less than that price at auction, the territorial government takes on the loss.

"We protect the trapper against market fluctuations," Rossouw said.

Rossouw is expecting the NWT to do fairly well at the next auction. The March 13 to 14 and the June 4 to 5 sales in Helsinki, Finland are being billed as the fur auctions of the century. The auctions are bringing together three auction houses that will combine the best of North American wild and ranch fur with the best of European ranch fur.

Asian buyers won't have to travel to North America, which should help, Rossouw said. About 12,000 pelts from the current NWT harvest, including 8,500 martin will be going to the March sale.

The Genuine Mackenzie Valley Furs Program and the current fur market were two of the topics that Rossouw addressed during snaring, skinning and pelt handing workshops that were recently held in Trout Lake and Fort Simpson. Both of the workshops included lots of hands-on activities, which got people engaged, he said.

Approximately 12 people attended the full day workshop in Trout Lake on Feb. 18.

Under the guidance of Andy Chartrand with Fur Harvesters Auction all of the participants made lynx snares, which they got to take home. Chartrand also had school students Branden Jumbo and Deanna Jumbo skin martin along with him and then pin them to

boards. The workshop was about showing people ways they can improve how they make snares, set snares and traps and handle pelts so they can make more money, said Rossouw.

If every trapper handles pelts the same way it also makes the fur from the NWT look uniform when it goes to market, he said. Participants were also given a variety of items to enhance their trapping including new martin trap boxes, martin boards and manuals on pelting.

The workshops are also about making contacts so people know who they can talk to with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment or Environment and Natural Resources if they have concerns, Rossouw said.

Ivor Cli-Norwegian was one of approximately 10 people who attended the Feb. 20 workshop in Fort Simpson.

"It was really good," the 16-year-old said.

"They just had a lot of good tips on how to get more for your fur."

Cli-Norwegian went to the workshop with his mother Cheryl Cli. Their family plans to set some traps next year.

Cli-Norwegian said he sees trapping as a way to earn "a couple of extra bucks." At the workshop he was chosen to skin a martin, something he'd never done before. Chartrand gave really good tips about how to do it and what you have to be careful of, he said.

Although it's hard to compete with the wage economy, trapping is a viable option or something people can do on the weekend in addition to their day job, said Rossouw.

"It's a great opportunity to get out there with your kids," he said.

Trapping teaches a variety of skills from snowmobile maintenance to wildlife conservation.

"It's a healthy choice," Rossouw said.

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