One thing that I appreciate about permaculture is how it takes into account the many symbiotic relationships on the farm, including those of wild things and woodlots, and how they effect the farm as a whole. While I have seen much written about timber harvesting, mushrooms, and the like; I haven’t seen much written about the potential of wild fur as a renewable and managed resource in zones 3 and 4.
Wild fur-bearers play an important role in the ecosystem on any farm or homestead. Many of these animals are also predators that keep rodents and other pests in check. These same predators also kill and eat livestock when given the chance and can cut into the bottom line, sometimes in devastating ways. When we start adding livestock to our properties we run the risk of causing predator populations to increase. Some fur bearers, such as raccoons, foxes and coyotes can develop mange and rabies if their populations get too large for the given area. These diseases are a threat to both people and livestock. Beavers, if left to their own, can flood large portions of land that you may not want underwater. The point of this is simple, wild fur bearing animals need to be managed the same as trees, plants and other living things on our farms and homesteads.
These animals also represent some added income potential. Harvested animal’s pelts can be sold raw to traveling fur buyers, fleshed-dried-stretched hides can be shipped to auction houses and sold, or you can tan your own hides and craft them into gloves, hats and other garments that can be used or sold. Harvesting fur and crafting it into warm winter clothing is a very satisfying experience that draws one even closer to the land that sustains them, as well as removing one more thing from the “have to buy” list. In recent years the price of wild North American fur has made a come back, making fur harvesting profitable again. Properly managed, a homestead trapline will produce a regular supplemental income and a healthy ecosystem.
What animals can be harvested for their fur? North America has been blessed with a large number of fur bearing animals. The following animals have useable/salable hides, muskrats, beavers, nutria, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, fishers, marten, mink, weasel, lynx, bobcat, skunk, possum and wolves.
Here is a list of resources that may be helpful if you’re interested in tapping into the potential of wild fur
Trapping North American Furbearers by Stanley Hawbaker
Guide to Trapping
NTA Trappers Handbook
Tan Your Hide!
The Ultimate Guide to Skinning and Tanning: A Complete Guide to Working with Pelts, Fur, and Leather
Minnesota Trapline Products