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More than 100 trappers and folks interested in processing and handling enjoyed numerous presentations and sales of finished fur products during an Erie County Trappers Association Fur Handling Seminar at Collins Conservation Club Jan. 4.

Trapping, one of mankind’s first survival technologies and an early target of animal rights groups, has evolved into a modern pursuit that provides an ecological balance in furbearing animal life, humane handling of wildlife legally trapped and refinements in the processing and use of furs.

All these advanced procedures and the competent, skilled people that trap and handle fur gave visitors an array of interesting exhibits and shared info at the Collins club that Saturday.

Chris “Hoot” Gerling gave a comprehensive summary of the season so far and showed what good steps go into a well-processed fur.

Gerling noted that official season openers are not a must for fur gathering. “Fur quality peaks as the winter starts,” he said. Most area fur animals develop a full coat well into December and early January.

“Later in the season an animal may lose tip hairs and the hide might be off on one side or the other,” he said.

Buyers look for this and other quality features, but Gerling pointed out that processing properly can improve sale prices of fur lots. Holding up a smooth, clean hide he said, “Now this is a good example of ‘white leather.’ ”

As for species, he said muskrat prices are currently up, but these small furbearers are the most vulnerable afield. “Just about every predator out there wants ‘rats,’ ” he noted.

Beaver fur can be the most difficult to properly process in order to retain the top/tip and under fur. Gerling has become a major marketer in fur accessories, especially lined fur hats. To check out his line of fur products, go to hootsfurs.com.

Despite declines in fur prices this past year, young trappers have entered the ranks of fur finders and processers. During the trapper seminar many experts did demos and one of the most impressive was a skinning sequence Racheal Smith, 18, conducted while dad, Brian Smith, assisted with props.

Racheal said she got into trapping seriously at age 11, but dad added, “She was walking trap lines with me back when she was four.” Her adept handling of a raccoon showed a clean separation of hide, body fat and flesh Hoot Gerling mentioned earlier.

This and other skills have resulted in her being for an Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs Youth of the Year award at age 15.

In general, Gerling noted fur prices are down about 20 percent and raccoon are off some 30 percent. While good supplies of ranch-grown mink affects wild fur prices, the market still remains above numbers set two to three years ago.

A good yardstick of midwinter prices will be confirmed during the Genesee Valley Trappers Association auction today in Honeoye. For current and past auction results, go to geneseevalleytrappers.com.

email: odrswill@gmail.com