Rural System's

The Furbearer Group




The group of animals with great appeal and with unexploited financial potentials is that of the furbearers -- beaver, skunk, bobcat, muskrats, foxes, coyote, raccoon, weasel, mink and others. Coordination with the Rabbits Group will assure high prices for pelts and appropriate processing of furs. There are strong sentiments against trapping but furs remain in high popularity. There is little counter-force to the anti-trapping community.

These species need intensive management since they can compromise other management objectives. They can also be created 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 the region and its objectives. The need is for some of the most intense, far-reaching research any where 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 little (to our knowledge) 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 region ... in ways no one else has been able to sustain in the past.

Furs are a primary interest. The strategies include

  1. marketing;
  2. strategic buying;
  3. improving trapper success;
  4. improving humane taking;
  5. improving care of the pelts;
  6. doing modern gas-refrigeration storage;
  7. doing local cutting and trimming;
  8. making alternative uses of partials; and
  9. making 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 and trapping experts, 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 communities (that support each furbearer) change over time. Trapping zones, presence of animal sign, species conflicts, profit per unit area, costs-to-take maps, are planned. Visitors may come to the Rural System Tracts with the planned objective of seeing and photographing all of the furbearers of the Tracts. (A newsletter announces the successful people, tells of research accomplishments, shares in knowledge of the furbearers, provides excellent photographs, poems, new book suggestions and other natural history information of interest. Close links are built with Nature Folks, the GIS and Modeling Group, and the Inquire: the Unified Laboratory.

Where feasible, later funds for special projects will be sought from research fund pools but for the first 5 years, the work will be local, highly synthetic, linking ecological succession in all communities and types within the region to the many species commonly known as furbearers. Even if no furs are ever taken or sold, the subunit 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 frequent sighting of furbearers is a mission to assure quality experiences for hikers and other observers.

Individual research projects will make visit sites, suggest memorials, and add to local employment. The rodent-, predator-, grass-, deer-system is an example of a small, conspicuous system that needs knowledge and management because of the significant interest in this animal. Night-time tours as part of The Owls Group, Coyote and The Dogs Group will need to be well coordinated. Management of the species (foxes) as the product with which The Dogs Group works may suggest the managerial overlap. It will be worked out in practice by strongly overlapping groups that are not in conflict but synergistic.

Coyote will be integral. Its effects on the fawn crop must not be over looked. It may be the only means for deer population supression as hunters and their pressure decline.

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), sale of harvested products (glands, bones, biological instruction kits), and new products and services of the Pest Force.

This is viewed as a four-person start-up action group with expansion possibilities. A relatively small amount of start-up equipment and transportation are required. Office and computer support with marketing are anticipated from System Central.

Coyote invasion and population increase has been notable in 2000 and thereafter. A creative program of work is needed with the Coyote group related to sheep. A team of trappers can be developed (hypothesized) for highly seasonal work, partially for fur primeness, later for population control. An incentive based insurance program seems needed, one that is high but with major reductions evident (the marketing scheme) if the livestock owner

    works with and employs the trapper team
  1. used recommended fences
  2. attends an educational session
  3. works with effective predation dampening (buffering) strategies
  4. studies cost analyses related to control coists, actual financial loss, possible financial loss

Rural System might buy wool and mutton options, then work to maximize gains.

Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .

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Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 2, 2005