Area fur trade booming

ROCKPORT -The area’s trapping and fur trade is seeing record highs, according to a local fur buyer.

Jason Stutler, a fur buyer in Rockport, is seeing an increase in trapping as area folks are seeking extra income and fur prices have risen.

“A lot of people are trapping this year,” he said. “A lot of unemployed people are trying to make extra money, so they are trapping.”

Stutler grew up around trapping, learning the trade from his uncle Harold Stutler, who was part of a family tradition that dates back more than a century.

“There has been a fur buyer in the Stutler family for well over a century,” he said. “It is to us what oil is to the Rockefellers- minus the money.”

Stutler is a part-time fur buyer, working evenings from his shed on Windy Ridge.

He said there has been a boon in the fur trade recently. Rising foreign economies and a few cold winters have made the trapping and fur business a bustling one.

Stutler, who also sells trapping supplies, has sold more this year than any in recent memory.

“Last year the market heated up and the value of several items advanced by almost 100 percent,” he said.

Stutler deals in native small animal furs: fox, raccoon, possum, otter, bobcat, coyote, muskrat, beaver and mink. Bobcat and river otter pelts are the most valuable. Depending on the size and quality a bobcat or river otter pelt will fetch from $50 to $80.

Stutler estimates about 60 percent of the furs he buys are raccoon.

“Because there are so many of them, and they are relatively easy to catch,” he said. “The remaining 40 percent will be a mixture of everything else.”

Stutler said he’ll buy from 4,000-6,000 furs a year from the beginning of November through February.

At the end of the hunting and trapping season the West Virginia Trappers Association meets in Glenville for an annual auction. Several hundred trappers from all over the state will bring pelts.

In addition to Stutler, buyers will come from four or five states away for the event.

At this year’s auction he said more than $200,000 worth of fur was sold.

“They sold 9,200 pelts, 95 percent of those are native,” he said.

Most of the fur ends up overseas.

Stutler markets his purchases to larger fur brokers- there are a handful throughout the country who deal internationally. The majority of the fur ends up in China, Russia and Europe.

“Most of the fur is used for clothing and accessories: trim, blankets, teddy bears,” he said. “A lot of different uses, but primarily coats, jackets and hats.”

Stutler said the increase in demand and prices has increased the number of trappers.

“A lot of my customers are running into competition in the woods, rivers and creeks,” he said. “In years past they felt like they were the only people trapping. That’s not the case.

There are always more trappers out there than what people realize.”