Trappers rise again in Illinois

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Trappers rise again in Illinois

8/5/02

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 Illinois' raccoon population has declined about 10 percent, officials say, largely because demand for their pelts in the former Soviet Union and other foreign markets has driven prices high enough to make their pursuit worthwhile for hunters and trappers.

 Bob Bluett, a wildlife biologist for the state Department of Natural Resources, said Tuesday that more than $1.4 million worth of pelts were taken last season — up from $682,000 the year before.

 Bluett, who finished an annual report on fur trade last week, said hunters and trappers sold 217,088 pelts last season. Of the total, 165,375 were raccoon. The previous year, 86,673 raccoons were taken for their hides.

 Prices averaged $7.55 per pelt, Bluett said, up from $6.30 the previous year and $4.90 in 2000.

 Greg Groenewold of Groenewold Fur and Wool Co. in Forreston, one of 90 licensed fur dealers in Illinois, said the increase in price reflects a better economy in former Soviet bloc and other eastern countries. Not only do they have more money to spend on fur clothing, he said, "it's also a little more in vogue now."

 Illinois is a leader in fur production, Groenewold said, along with Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. He said many pelts are sold to overseas companies that send them to Greece or China to be turned into clothing before reaching market.

 But how many pelts are available depends on whether it's worth the time for hunters and trappers to take them.

 "The dollars and cents dictate how many are caught," Groenewold said.

 Hunting season for most fur-bearing animals runs from Nov. 5 to Feb. 10 in the northern part of Illinois and from Nov. 10 to Feb. 15 in the southern half. Trapping season is Nov. 5 to Jan. 15 in the north and Nov. 10 to Jan. 20 in the south.

 Bluett compiles annual information on the fur trade by analyzing reports fur dealers are required by law to file with the state.

 He said trapping is highly regulated, with trappers required to get permission from land owners before setting any traps. They also must check the traps every day. No traps with serrated "teeth" in the jaws are allowed; smooth-jawed foot-hold and body-grip traps, or cage traps, are legal.

 DNR officials say the 10.5 percent decrease in the raccoon population noted during a spring statewide wildlife survey is due to the increase in the number taken for their pelts.

 But the harvest was not a record. That was established in 1979, when pelts ballooned to an average price of $25.20 each and 381,000 raccoons were harvested.

 Given the tremendous number of raccoons in Illinois, Bluett said, the 10 percent decrease does not threaten the population.

 "Really, they're one of the top nuisance species in the state, especially in urban areas. They can also cause crop damage," he said.
 

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