The fur industry is likely one that will never recover

When I was in high school back in the mid-70s trapping and selling furs was a profitable business. I dabbled in it when I was in high school and college, and I made a little spending money. I also set my traps so that the animals drowned quickly and didn’t suffer.

I realize I grew up in the north where harsh winters made for high quality pelts. Here in eastern North Carolina fur from foxes, raccoons and muskrats isn’t quite as valuable. That’s only part of the story.

Once the animal rights movement began to take hold in the 1980s the market began to dry up. A lot of people today think it’s a good thing. My feelings are mixed.

I do admit that many trappers weren’t very concerned about humanely harvesting their furs. Allowing animals to suffer is unacceptable. They also wasted the meat which in some cases is very good. Muskrats are excellent. Raccoons can be greasy but many people find them tasty.

There’s a dirty little secret that many animal rights enthusiasts either don’t know or don’t want people to hear. Ever since the fur industry took a nosedive, human, pet and wildlife interactions have increased and results have not been positive. Rabies is just one example. Don’t take my word for it; look it up.

Wildlife killing pets is a problem that was rarely seen in my youth. Killing cats is no challenge for a mink or a fisher. Raccoons generally don’t bother cats. They’re smart animals that might realize harming a pet cat might make them a target of humans. They have no problem wiping out chickens though.

Recently, reports of coyotes attacking pets have risen. Pets are easy pickings for many wildlife species. As we continue to encroach into areas inhabited by wildlife we can expect more encounters.

I don’t have a problem with harvesting wildlife. I do have a problem with killing wildlife and not using them. Wildlife are renewable resources and if managed properly can help the economy and we can maintain stable healthy populations.

There are instances when thinning the population of certain species can be a good thing. For example, years ago beavers were hunted and trapped nearly to extinction. That was an excess and poor management. Now in some places they are pests and cause flooding that is costly. How can we control their population in good conscience if using their fur is unacceptable?

I trust our wildlife professionals to set reasonable seasons and limits to keep populations healthy and in balance. I hate to see wildlife wasted. Taking the life of an animal for no reason is wrong, but learning to be self-sufficient and conserve resources is a valuable skill.

I’m sure this column will make me some enemies, but it’s a topic many are afraid to defend. Our society has become less rural and many of those skills are now not considered in vogue. Still, I look back to my youth fondly and am glad I grew up when I did. Those days and the fur industry are pretty much gone.


Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
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One Response to The fur industry is likely one that will never recover

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Enemies? Yep. Try explaining the benefits of harvesting second growth redwoods. . . or managing invasive exotic (plant) specie.

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