During the height of the fur trade in the 17th and 18th centuries, some 200,000 beaver pelts a year were sold to the European market, mostly for beaver felt top hats. Today, the very best cowboy hats are still made from beaver.
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1. Trapping and fur farming helps furbearers
After 400 years of commercial trading, there are, overall, more furbearing animals today than back when Europeans came to North America. In fact, there are more beaver in Canada than anywhere else in the world. Once near extinction in some parts of North America, wild mink population have rebounded due in part to pelts supplied by mink farming.
Thanks to effective conservation policies today, Canadian furs only come from abundant species and absolutely no endangered or threatened species are used.
2. The fur trade isn’t economic history
Today, the fur trade contributes more than $2 billion annually to the North American economy, including more than $400 million in exports. Canada’s fur trade contributes more than $800 million to the Canadian economy. (2006)
In addition to cash income for trappers and their local communities, many Canadian families rely on beaver, muskrat and other wild animals for food. Although no statistics are kept for so-called “country foods” they are considered to have a significant economic replacement value.
Canada’s fur ranchers are mainly multi-generational family farms that contribute to rural economies like any other farming enterprise. The fox and mink farming industries contribute about $115 million to the Canadian economy annually. (2007)
Today’s fur trade supports tens of thousands of Canadians living on the land and those working in secondary trades.
3. Fur farming has its own Canadian research centre
Farmed fur associations have sponsored or contributed to Canadian research and developments in furbearer health, nutrition, behaviour, housing and management.
The Nova Scotia Fur Institute (NSFI) in collaboration with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) and Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing (NSDAM) has been funding published fur research and demonstration projects since its inception in 1984.
The Fur Research Chair position at the NSAC was created in 1994 and has a national mandate. Research is also conducted at veterinary colleges across the country.
4. Canada is a leader in trap research
The Canadian government and the fur trade have contributed over $18 million since 1984 to research and refine humane trapping methods. This pioneering work, coordinated by the Fur Institute of Canada, also provided the scientific basis for the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS).
Under international agreements signed by Canada, the United States, Russia and the European Union scientific protocols for humane trapping standards have been established. These standards protect animals trapped for any reason, including for pest and disease control.
5. The first modern day fur farm was Canadian
The first mink farming attempt in Canada took place during 1866-87 in Richmond, Ontario. The world’s first modern day fox farm opened on Prince Edward Island in 1895. Fur farming moved from North America to Europe in the early 20th century.
Mink and fox have now been farmed for well over 100 years. This represents many generations of captive breeding (over 2,500 years in human terms) and these animals are now considered by animal scientists to be domesticated animals. If sent into the wild most would not survive.
6. Professional trappers follow plenty of rules
Professional trappers have to be qualified and licensed to trap for any purpose in Canada.
Trapping is monitored by government biologists and furbearer managers. Each province and territory has a wildlife management plan that is met through regulations and enforced by law.
Trappers must harvest within limits or quotas. Harvest levels are adjusted both by changing the length and location of hunting/trapping seasons as well as by setting minimum and maximum limits on the number of animals that can be taken in a given season. Poaching is a crime in Canada.
Trap lines must be registered and catches must be reported. In all provinces, trap lines must be checked at least daily by law.
Under provincial/territorial regulations, only scientifically tested and approved traps for named Canadian species may be used.
7. New traps are better for the animals
According to animal scientists, measuring and interpreting distress levels in any animal, including people, is complex and difficult. Scientific data on the affects of trapping on furbearing species is limited but research is slated to increase in the future according to international agreement.
The research that has been done to measure the behaviour and physical responses of different species showed that most animals tested were 1) only moderately stressed by a trapping experience, 2) that stress indicators may vary but none appeared life-threatening.
Research with some species such as squirrels, rabbits and fox has also shown that stress, although not normally excessive in either case, may actually be more acute in cage traps than limb holding traps.
Today’s traps are also less likely to cause injury and discomfort. For example, research with red fox indicates that compared to older style traps today’s soft catch limb holding traps significantly reduce injuries and resulting animal discomfort and distress.
Experienced trappers say that under proper circumstances most wild animals caught in limb holding traps make efforts to escape until they realize that they are securely held and will then settle down. This observation is supported by the existing research.
8. Trappers need to pass an exam
The first step in becoming a trapper is to take a course in fur management. Subjects include; population dynamics, biology, regulations, trapper safety and humane trapping techniques.
Trappers must pass an exam to get his or her provincial/territorial trapping licence. In Canada, a trapper’s license is required to practice trapping for any reason including for pest and disease control and for wildlife conservation.
9. A well managed farm produces top quality fur
Most farmers raise animals because they enjoy working with them. However, farming is more than a way of life. It is also a business and a fur farmer's livelihood depends on producing high quality pelts.
Just as with our household animals, the condition of a furbearer’s coat is one of the clearest indications of the care it is receiving. Poorly cared for animals produce poor quality pelts which receive a lower price at auction, if they sell at all.
Fur farming is also well regulated both through provincial laws and Best Management Practices. This helps ensure fur farms are environmentally responsible and provide healthy, safe conditions for the animals.
In some provinces fur farms must be licensed and all Canadian farms are subject to provincial animal and environmental protection laws.
10. Canadian furs are the envy of the world
Canada ranks third in the world for fur production, behind the United States and Russia, but first for the quality of furs produced. Buyers from around the world attend Canadian fur auctions and marketing events each year.
What is a furbearer?
Animals hunted, trapped or farmed for their pelts are called furbearers.
Furbearers are a diverse group of mammals and have unique habits. They include both carnivores (meat eating predators) and rodents (gnawing mammals).
A few types of animals that are primarily hunted or trapped for their meat or to reduce agricultural or property damage are also considered furbearers by wildlife managers.
What is "carrying capacity"?
All creatures require an environment that provides adequate food, clean drinking water and shelter in order to remain healthy and viable as a species.
The maximum number of individuals that a given environment can support without harmful effects is called the biological carrying capacity.
When the population of an animal species exceeds the carrying capacity of an area, the population must re-adjust itself in order for the species to survive. Nature accomplishes this with reduced reproduction rates and increased mortality rates.
Animals in over-populated areas may experience starvation and animal disease, infanticide and cannibalism, or migration into new areas – including human occupied areas.
What is a renewable wildlife resource?
Wildlife is a renewable resource. Renewable resources are those natural resources which are capable of replenishing themselves. Such resources include forest trees, water, agricultural crops and grassland pastures, as well as all forms of wildlife and fish.
At any given point in time, the amount of a renewable resource depends on the rate at which it is being used or lost and the rate at which it is replenishing itself.
Sustainable wildlife use is determined by how many wild animals people can harvest without harming wildlife populations.
Sustainable use is endorsed by all leading conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Fund.
What is an animal by-product?
By-products are secondary products or something produced in the making of something else.
A by-product can be useful and marketable, or it can be considered waste.
Animal by-products are used both by humans---for example, bone meal fertilizers, and by other animals--- for example, meat, dairy and egg processing wastes used to feed fur farmed animals.
What is Mink Oil?
Mink have a thick fatty layer just below the skin. This fatty layer is recovered after the pelt is removed from the carcass and is then rendered down to make mink oil.
An industrial grade is used for waterproofing and conditioning leathers. Manufactures and those who use leather products consider mink oil to be superior to synthetics.
Fine, triple-refined cosmetic grade mink oil is prized for use on the face, hair and body. Studies suggest it is the closest known oil to human skin oil used by the body to moisturize and lubricate the skin. Mink oil contains glycerides and nearly 17% palmitoleic acid, an essential Omega 7 fatty acid also produced in the human body
What is poaching?
Poaching is the illegal collection or killing of fish, wildlife or native plants.
Poaching can include any of five factors: time, location, number, method or species. Some common examples include:
Poaching is a serious and costly crime. It results in a threat to wildlife resources and robs all citizens -- nature lovers, hunters, fishers and trappers -- who respect nature and comply with the legislation and regulations.
Poaching can be reduced if concerned citizens report the details of suspected illegal activity to their provincial/territorial government tip line or to Crime Stoppers.
What is a trap line?
A trap line, which may extend for many kilometres, consists of a series (or line) of individual traps.
Traps are set along the travel routes used by a particular species and in the vicinity of their dens and feeding areas.
Trap lines must be registered with the provincial government or territory and government registration fees may be applied.
What is the trapping season in Canada?
While the management of a trap line is a year-round activity, commercial trapping happens during the cold weather, in the late fall and winter, when the fur is prime.
However, there is a specific trapping period for each species and each geographic area.
Seasons are also adjusted to account for local population levels, so the time and length of seasons may vary from year to year.
Trapping is monitored by government biologists and furbearer managers who set trapping seasons to coincide with the time when fur of each species is at its fullest (prime).
Commercial trapping is not permitted during the times of year when females of that species are giving birth and raising young.
Out-of-season trapping occurs only when measures are necessary to control problem wildlife.
When necessary, specific minimum or maximum harvesting limits are also set.
What is "humane trapping"?
Humane is defined in the dictionary as: "marked by compassion, sympathy or consideration for humans or animals." By definition then, humane trapping of animals considers the well-being of the animal in the trapping process.
Trappers rely on both scientific research results and practical experience to help determine what traps and methods are the most humane for different species and situations. Ongoing research and trap advancements focus on minimizing distress, injuries and other factors that negatively affect animal well-being.
International standards for humane traps and trapping methods must be met in Canada.
For over 25 years, the Fur Institute of Canada has administered an on-going program designed to identify and develop the most humane trapping systems possible for each of the furbearing species taken in Canada.
How do we keep wildlife from being over or under harvested?
Regulation of commercial wildlife harvest is based on current population sizes and future population trends.
Usually the harvest is kept at the highest possible level that will not adversely affect population sizes and harvests in future years.
Harvest levels are monitored. By registering all trappers, trap lines and fur sales, government wildlife departments are able to determine the number of each species being harvested.
If a population of a certain species is in danger of being over-harvested, the provincial/territorial department may reduce trapping quotas, shorten seasons or close areas to trapping in order to limit the harvest.
If a population becomes over abundant the department may increase trapping quotas, set minimum quotas, extend seasons or open new areas where trapping is needed.
Why not just relocate unwanted wildlife?
Although relocation has been successful for some species such as bear and elk, it is relatively ineffective for other species. Often individuals simply try to return to their original homes.
Animals that have been successfully relocated may end up disrupting their new ecosystem or causing many of the same problems as before.
Relocation may result in death for introduced animals due to stress, starvation, predation, hostile encounters with resident member species, or other factors related to placing an animal in an unfamiliar and occupied territory.
Relocating animals also increases the risk of spreading diseases such as rabies, mange, distemper, and even some forms of transmissible cancers.
Relocation efforts may often not be possible because they are too costly or there is a lack of appropriate habitat available.
Most major animal protection and conservation organizations agree that relocation is not always the best course of action.
For all these reasons, many jurisdictions now prohibit the relocation of wildlife unless for special purposes such as well supervised conservation work with threatened and endangered species.
How do trappers avoid capturing unintended animals?
Animal species vary in size and behaviours, so no one type of trap or trapping method works for all species in all settings.
Most traps are species specific, meaning they are designed to capture a particular species or group of similar species.
How traps are set and located is determined by what species is intended to be captured. This reduces the likelihood of accidental capture of non-target animals
Non-target animals caught in modern foothold and cage traps can usually be released unharmed in the rare instance one is captured.
New traps under development promise to be even more species specific and trappers are kept up-to-date on the newest technologies and best ways to capture target species.
What types of furbearers are raised on farms?
Mink are the primary species raised on Canadian fur farms. Fox are also commonly farm raised in Canada and a limited amount of Chinchilla.
Fur farming accounts for about 85% of the fur produced world wide (70-75% in Canada). In addition to fur, these animals provide us with valuable by-products used in cosmetics, consumer goods and fertilizers.
Where can trap lines be set in Canada?
Why do people trap?
Today, trapping is done as an annual pursuit by many people in the United States and Canada. In addition, many homeowners use trapping to deal with wildlife causing property damage. Farmers rely on trapping and hunting to help protect their land and livestock from damage caused by wildlife. And municipalities use trapping to control problem wildlife and feral animals.
According to wildlife experts, research has found that people who trap do so for many reasons, the most commonly listed ones are: lifestyle, nature appreciation, wildlife management, affiliation with other people, self-sufficiency (food, clothing), income (sometimes complimentary to their household budget, sometimes a critical component or an important safety net to household income). Most people participate for several reasons.
These surveys have shown that they consider the land and the utilization of wildlife as part of their lifestyle. Trappers also tend to have strong support for conservation programs and environmental protection.
Trapping is a means of providing food, clothing and other items for their households. Studies in New England and elsewhere reveal that trappers participate in bartering in many communities. They barter childcare, automobile repair, vegetables and other goods or services in exchange for pelts, trapping services, or the removal of nuisance wildlife causing property damage.
An important observation has been that trapping in today's society has often been referred to as 'recreational' in the context of a 'sport'. However, the body of existing research indicates that this term is a misnomer and not descriptive of the motives of the hundreds of trappers they studied.
Is fur farming eco-logical?
Fur farming has environmental benefits, such as providing a use for thousands of tonnes of animal by-products from human food production. Fur farmed animals are fed waste food purchased from fish and poultry processors and other farming sectors. Feeding these by-products, which are not intended for human use, creates a market that helps keep down the actual cost of human food production and that reduces the waste stream.
Since fur farming is not land-based, fur farms can be located in areas unsuitable for other types of farming: this makes productive use of marginal lands.
Raising fur animals is well suited to mixed farming since it demands the most from a farmer during the winter months when field crops need less attention. Straw from crops is used for bedding and to insulate cages, while the manure from ranched animals returns to the soil as fertilizer.
Fur farmers are also beginning to explore the use of farm wastes as a source of bio-energy that can power their own farms and beyond.
As a renewable natural resource and recycler, farmed fur is a sustainable product.
How are fur pelts sold?
Sale by public auction is the main way fur is sold. There are three auction houses in Canada, including the world's third largest fur auction. Buyers from around the world attend these auctions held through the year.
Canada is also one of the main centres for processing and manufacturing furs. Canadian manufacturers are renowned for wild fur garments.
How are fur pelts graded?
Pelts for sale are prepared by the trapper, on the farm or at custom pelting facilities.
Properly prepared pelts are graded for fur quality characteristics which include clarity of colour, texture, density, size and length of nap.
The nap is the length relationship between the two distinct fur fibers found on the pelt; one being the shorter underfur and the other being the longer guard hair. A short nap, where the guard hair is only slightly longer than the underfur, is the most desirable.
Is it wasteful to use animals for fur?
Furbearers provide us with more than just clothing.
The best artist brushes and fishing lures come from furbearers.
Fine oils, fats and musk are used in the leather and cosmetics industries.
Teeth and bones may be used for handmade arts and crafts.
Farmed animals are also a source of bone and blood meals and organic fertilizers.
Beaver, muskrat and other fur animals provide food for many aboriginal and outdoors communities; animals not used for food are returned to nature to feed other wildlife through the winter.
Nothing is wasted.
How are fur farms changing?
Fur farmers have to adopt new technologies to improve their domestic and international competitiveness.
New manure handling equipment is used for better environmental protection. Computer controlled pelt processing equipment and computerized breeding records are starting to be used.
New technology in housing means a change to more traditional barn-style buildings. Cage sizes are changing as well. And increased biosecurity measures, to control the movement of animals and people onto the farm, protect animals from the risk of disease.
Does it make eco-logical sense to use animals for fur?
Today synthetics can be substituted for natural fibres such as furs, but synthetics are generally made from petroleum products which are non-renewable resources and not biodegradable.
Unlike the oil industry, fur harvesting is a non-disruptive use of our wilderness and has a much smaller ecological footprint than petroleum production.
Farming fur is an environmentally conscious activity and fills an important gap in sustainable agriculture and food production by making use of waste products to provide a variety of goods.
Fur farmers also make an important contribution to wildlife conservation. Farmed fur complements fur harvested as a part of wildlife management. By stabilizing supplies in times of heavy demand, fur farmers help wildlife managers focus on ecological needs, not on market demands.
From an environmental perspective, as long as trapping and fur farming are well managed, it is far preferable to use these natural fibres. Fur is renewable, long lasting, recyclable, biodegradable, and it is warmer than many other natural and synthetic fibres.
Why do people wear fur coats?
According to the Fur Information Council of America, warmth is the number one reason given by consumers when they were asked why they wear fur.
According to the Fur Council of Canada, a growing number of people are recognizing that fur is an environmentally sound choice.
How do I know where the fur comes from?
As a consumer or retailer, you can always ask about the origins of furs.
The Beautifully CanadianTMlabel is a guarantee that the garment is made from Canadian fur.
The fur trade also uses an international label of origin, Origin AssuredTM(OA). This voluntary label is the consumers’ assurance that the fur comes from a country where national or local regulations or standards governing fur production are in force. The QA program is also a reflection of the fur trade's commitment to fairness and honesty with their customers.
The label covers certain wild and farmed fur types and is used by countries, including Canada, that regulate fur production. Furs carrying the label can be traced down through the chain of suppliers, work rooms, tanneries, buyers and auction houses to the country of origin.