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The Fur Trade Today - 12/29/04

Published 12/29/04

Western European retailers are still feeling the effects of a season that is experiencing milder than average temperatures. Adverse economic conditions and problems on the political scene are also helping to keep store traffic low. This year’s higher prices are hurting retailers in China.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/06/04

Beavers were once a threatened species in the United States. By the 1930s, the industrious animals had nearly been wiped out by trapping. Research has shown that beavers are a boon for ecosystems. Scientists have found their industrious dam-building fosters healthy aquifers and attracts other wildlife.

Source: ABC News Internet Ventures, 12/06/04

On November 10, Diane Smith let her four-year-old Brittany spaniel named Ginger off her leash to run through a park in Lowell, Michigan. Smith soon watched in horror as Ginger walked into an illegally placed trap and was killed as the trap closed around her throat. Smith stayed with her dog until she stopped breathing, and then walked about a half-mile to the police station to report the incident. A Lowell ordinance prohibits trapping within city limits.

The trap was attached to a cord tied to a nearby tree and was baited with a container of fish guts. Police traced the serial number on the trap to a Mecosta County man who says he sold it all his traps at a garage sale nearly two years ago. Bill Fuchs of the state Department of Natural Resources said the trapper could face penalties including improper trapping on public land, violation of the city ordinance, trapping out of season and failing to register the trap.

Sources: www.woodtv.com, 12/08/04;
Grand Rapids Press, 12/07/04

A Washington State appeals court has upheld voter-approved bans on most animal trapping, bearbaiting, and using dogs to hunt bears and cougars, thwarting an effort by hunting, trapping, and ranching groups to overturn the bans that were passed by voters in 1996 and 2000.

Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/09/04

About one million animals are trapped in Canada for their fur each year. In the EU approximately five million animals are trapped annually. This includes at least one million muskrats, of which at least 300,000 to 400,000 are caught under the Netherlands’ muskrat eradication program funded by the state.

By far the most common method (between 90 and 95%) for trapping animals in Canada and in the EU is to use a trapping system that kills the animal. This includes land traps such as conibears and snares, and conibears, snares, cages, and leghold traps when set underwater. The most common method used in the Netherlands to trap muskrats is an underwater colony trap which can catch several animals at once without resetting.

Only a relatively small percentage of animals (5-10%) are trapped in Canada and the EU by a method which holds the animal alive until the trapper makes contact with it.

Traps used in the EU include neck snares, box cages and leg snares.

Canada has banned all traps with teeth (not the case in the EU).

It is legal to use neck snares in France and the UK, but not in Germany; drowning is permitted in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands but not in Finland unless it is done with state authority. Traps with teeth are banned in France and the UK but permitted in Germany. There are rumors that at least one EU Member State still authorizes the use of some jaw-type leghold traps under national legislation.

Source: Presentation at the symposium,
“Trapped by Furs; the legality of the European Community’s fur import ban in EC and international law,”
01/17/97, Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
Author: James Stone, First Secretary (Trade Policy), Mission of Canada to the EU

Michael Bierie went out for a walk with his two dogs when Bali, a 62-pound Siberian husky wearing an electronic collar, bounded down the path toward a creek. A moment later Bali was thrashing in a conibear trap. Bierie struggled for several minutes to remove the trap but by the time he did, Bali had stopped breathing.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, conibears, leghold traps and snares are legal, as long as the traps are not within five feet of a fence that lies within a public right of way. Anyone who sets a trap within 200 yards of a building that is occupied must have the property owner’s permission, and the trap must be marked with the owner’s name.

The Bieries are not the only ones to have found a pet killed or injured in a trap. Early in November, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department found a dog caught in a leghold in rural Maquoketa. The dog’s leg eventually was amputated.

Source: Telegraph Herald, 12/07/04

According to a study for the National Park Service, the spread of the fur trade during the early years of the 19th century brought devastation to populations of animals and native Indians and devastated much of the environment as the northwest’s “natural resources” were exploited.

Brian Schefke, a University of Washington history doctoral student, has found that the Hudson’s Bay Company failed as a force for conservation because it was constrained by its business strategy and the constant demand for profits. “... the very nature of the fur trade ultimately meant its conservation efforts couldn’t succeed,” he said.

George Simpson, head of Hudson’s Columbia Department, created a buffer to protect the company’s richest beaver-trapping operations in the interior of British Columbia. To keep Americans away, he set out to create a “fur desert” in the Snake River Basin by trapping as many animals as possible to make the area unprofitable. Simpson’s strategy worked, but decimated the beaver population.

Because of the company’s lust for money, populations of sea otters and beaver declined west of the Cascade Mountains.

The fur trade also devastated the Indian population by introducing such diseases as smallpox and measles. Schefke notes that in the first century of European contact, native populations declined by as much as 80 percent in parts of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. And along the lower Columbia River, the Indian population shrank by as much as 90 percent between 1805 and 1855, according to earlier research.

Eventually Hudson’s Bay Company failed, in part, because it viewed nature as something to exploit, Schefke said.

Source: www.newswise.com, 12/13/04

Early December retail fur sales have been slow in the U.S. after a November that saw few furriers match the pervious years’ sales for that month. Despite this, cumulative sales for the year are still above those of last year. Fur accessories such as vests and trim and shearlings have made up for lackluster coat sales. Accessories are impulse purchases and are playing a big part in the season’s fur sales.

American Legend will move its February fur auction from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., in order to address the concerns of foreign fur buyers who may be reluctant to enter the United States due to the ongoing Justice Dept. investigation into violations of anti-trust laws. Fearing that some buyers may be detained for questioning by federal agents should they enter the U.S., Vancouver is a likely site for the auction since it sits only about 100 miles to the north of Seattle.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/13/04

A beaver trap authorized by the City of Port Coquitlam, B.C., suffocated an 88-pound Rottweiler. “I couldn’t do anything. I tried to help him. I tried to pry it (the trap) open,” said Tamara Howe, guardian of Brutus, the four-year-old dog who suffocated when the trap snapped over his throat. “I just had to stand there and watch him die,” she said. Ms. Howe said the trap was set beside a stream where she and her children would often take their dogs, Brutus and Tia, on walks. The traps had been set by a company contracted by the City and there were no signs in the area to warn against the danger. Following this incident, the City of Port Coquitlam took immediate action to remove beaver traps from public property.

Sources: Vancouver Sun, 12/17/04;
City of Port Coquitlam Press Release, 12/17/04

Since 1992, there have been about 6,000 licensed trappers each year in the state of Minnesota.

Source: Herald-Review (Grand Rapids, MN), 12/17/04

Disappointing retail sales in the major world fur markets is being blamed on a stretch of unseasonably mild weather. Stores are already halfway through what is normally the biggest fur selling month of the year and retailers are disappointed that their products are not selling as well as they should. Even the Chinese and Russian markets are said to be “sluggish” at this time, although Russia’s retail sales are turning upward.

Fur apparel imports to the U.S. declined slightly in the month of October, bringing an end to almost two years of monthly increases. The latest Commerce Dept. shows that imports were down 4% for the month. The year-to-date total is still 26% ahead of the 2003 pace.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/20/04

Michigan hunter Matt Kiilunen lost his dog, Shiela, to an illegal snare on November 30. Kiilunen had placed Shiela and two other dogs in an enclosed running pen on his property. When he returned later in the evening, he found the pen empty and evidence a coyote had dug into the pen. The dogs had tracking collars, and Kiilunen searched for them.

“I heard barking in the distance, and knew (Shiela) couldn’t be more than a hundred yards from me,” Kiilunen said. “Then the barking changed to a more muffled cry. That is when she was suffocating.” When Kiilunen found the dog, she had been killed in a conibear-type trap, designed to choke a coyote in a wire lasso. [The reporter is describing a snare, not a conibear trap — JM]

The trap in question was illegal on a number of counts. The snare was placed outside of the legal coyote trapping season of January 1 through March 1, and was set on commercial forest land. Snares are only legal on private land, according to the Michigan Hunting and Trapping Guide, which delineates Department of Natural Resources regulations.

Kiilunen said the use of snares and conibear-type traps is inhumane because the animal slowly suffocates until the trapper arrives to club it to its death.

Source: www.mininggazette.com

Debbie Johnson’s five-year-old Basset Hound Levi was killed by a conibear trap in the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont. Officials from Vermont’s Fish and Game Department unapologetically told Ms. Johnson that the trap was set legally and that she should not have allowed her dog to be without a leash.

Source: St. Albans Messenger, 12/18/04

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