Rural System, Inc.
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits

The Raccoon Group

Furbearers are animals with great appeal, with hardly-exploited financial potentials, and needing management. A rich variety of these animals lives in the county -- raccoon, beaver, weasel, mink, bobcats, and others. Without management they can compromise other management objectives but they can also be changed into a profitable managerial enterprise. Much research has been done on them, but much, much more is needed and few people realize the complexity and relations of their system and that of other components of Rural System, Inc. and its objectives.

The need is for application of the findings of many studies integrated with some of the most intense, far-reaching research anywhere in the world. It should not be on the biology of the animal alone (the past trend) but on the total profitable enterprise. Agencies have waited for funds but no one has stabilized an intensive management system including feedback and future predictions. The prospects are not for recreational trapping (strongly opposed by some) but for a viable, profitable enterprise utilizing one of the natural products of the Pivotal Tracts ... in ways no one else has been able to sustain in the past.

The emphasis of a major part of the work is on the raccoon. Extensive research results can be brought to showing a superior, total resource system for one species, a system related not only to furs but also several types of hunting. Profits from a fur enterprise are a primary interest. The strategies include marketing of furs; strategic buying; improvements in trapper success and humane taking; improved care of the pelts; storage; local cutting and trimming; alternative uses of partials; and alternative uses of the entire carcass. Fur markets seem to fluctuate due to style and other phenomena. We propose to work with the fur industry, seek new marketing strategies, avoid public confrontations, retain a private-for-profit stance, diversify the work of the group, and demonstrate the potentials of storage to achieve sale when prices are high.

Work will include sophisticated research (expected to attract visitors and students); furbearer workshops for state and federal biologists; trapper schools; vertebrate pest damage manager schools; fur-buyer schools. Software development will enhance some work, especially as it shows how ecological communities (that support each furbearer) change over time. Trapping zones, presence of animal sign, species conflicts, profit per unit area, and costs-to-take maps are planned elements of the system. Visitors may come to the area with the planned objective of seeing and photographing all of the furbearers present. A newsletter announces the successful people, tells of research accomplishments, shares in knowledge of the furbearers, and provides excellent photographs, poems, new book suggestions and other natural history information of interest. Close links are built with Nature Folks.

The work is in local, highly synthetic activity, linking ecological succession in all communities and types to the many species commonly known as furbearers. Even if no furs are ever taken or sold, the number of large, difficult-to-see, top-of-the-food-web animals is very important to the ecology of the area and must be mastered. The rodent-, predator-, grass-, deer-coyote system is an example of a small, conspicuous system that needs knowledge and management.

The financial base of the system will come from schools, memberships, tours, individual guests on the area, volunteer work (in-kind salary equivalents), workshops, publications, photo opportunities (for a fee), art commissions, sale of harvested products (glands, bones, biological instruction kits), and new products and services of the Pest Force. A link will be made with the nigh-time activities of the Owls Group of Nature Folks.

A relatively small amount of start-up equipment and transportation are required. Startup: $50,000. Office and computer support with marketing are anticipated from System Central.

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Maybe we can work together
... for the good of us all
... for a long time.

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