Hunting and Trapping, and Game Propagation

SIC 0971

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in commercial hunting and trapping, or in the operation of game preserves.

Hunting and trapping are among the oldest industries in the United States. Although hunting and trapping have traditionally involved taking animals for their pelts and skins, the 1990s and 2000s saw increases in other occupations within this classification. Experienced hunters and trappers turned to work as guides for hunting parties. Some trappers focused their efforts on catching animals for research or wildlife management programs. A growing specialty was the practice of capturing wild animals in urban areas so that they could be removed to other environments. Another component of this category is the game preserve, where game populations are controlled to provide a hunting experience for visitors.

Trading in beaver pelts played a role in the western expansion of the United States. As areas became overexploited, the commercial trade moved further and further west. During the nineteenth century, there were few ordinances governing the taking of fur-bearing animals. As a result, some species were threatened. In fact, one of the first animal management regulations regarded fur seals. Under the terms of the Alaska Convention of 1911, Japan, Russia, Canada, and the United States agreed to limit catches according to governmental rules. The resulting regulations enabled seal populations to recover and sustain themselves.

The twentieth century brought other regulations to the industry. Seasons for taking animals were open or closed based on the management needs of specific populations. Many jurisdictions instituted laws requiring trappers to check their traps at frequent intervals, usually every 24 hours. The Endangered Species Confiscation Act of 1969 listed animals "threatened with worldwide extinction" and prohibited trading in them.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the United States saw growing antagonism between members of the animal rights movement and trappers and hunters. Animal rights activists aimed their efforts at reducing demand for fur products, which resulted in price declines. Trappers and hunters responded by developing programs in conjunction with governmental regulators to manage populations of wild animal stocks at sustainable levels and to seek more humane trapping techniques.

The antagonist feelings between fur farmers and animal rights activists continued to rage into the early 2010s. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) became a well-recognized and very vocal opponent of the fur industry, widely known for gaining the support of Hollywood celebrities. In a campaign that began in the late 2000s, celebrities began appearing naked in PETA-sponsored advertisements, to suggest that wearing nothing is better than wearing fur. PETA's impact is difficult is measure, but the organization has clearly caused the fur industry to spend considerable time and resources to fight a negative public image and promote the humane treatment of its animals.

The most common fur-bearing species include mink, fox, rabbit, coyote, beaver, raccoon, opossum, skunk, seal, gray wolf, black bear, sea otter, and fur seal. A member of the weasel family, mink comprises the largest portion of the market. Of those, black pelts (which are actually a dark brown) made up 52 percent of total U.S. production in 2009, followed by mahogany (21 percent) and blue iris (10 percent).

The modern U.S. fur industry is divided into two segments: "wild caught" and "ranch farmed." Wild-caught pelts account for the majority of U.S. fur production, but ranch-farmed pelts are worth much more and account for a larger percentage of annual sales. In the early 2010s, roughly 200,000 trappers were registered in the United States.

After steady growth in fur production during the 1970s and 1980s, pelt production declined in the United States during the 1990s and 2000s. After reaching a peak pelt production of 4.6 million pelts in 1989, pelt production began to generally trend downward, hitting a two-decade low of 2.55 million pelts in 2003 before increasing slightly to 2.86 million by 2009. The number of fur farms also dropped, from 940 in 1989 to just 278 in 2009. The United States ranks fifth, behind Denmark, China, the Netherlands, and Poland, in fur pelt production.

Prices for mink pelts are sporadic, although they have primarily trended upward. In 1990, the average price for a mink pelt was $25.50; five years later, the price skyrocketed to $53.10 before bottoming out in 1998 at $24.80. By 2003, however, prices reached $40.10 and continued climbing through the remainder of the 2000s to reach $65.10 in 2009. That year, U.S. mink farms produced 2.86 million pelts for a production value of $185.9 million.

Wisconsin, the major mink producing state, produced 886,100 pelts in 2009, a significant increase from 594,700 pelts in 2001. Utah was the second-largest producing state, with 613,500 mink pelts. Total mink pelts produced in 2009 were valued at $185.9 million, an increase of 58 percent from the 2008 total of $117 million and up considerably from the 2002 value at $79.8 million. Most of the ranch farming in the United States involves mink, but a few fox fur farms also operate. Approximately 100,000 fox pelts are produced annually in about 10 U.S. states. Finland is the world's leading producer of fox pelts, with Canada producing 10 to 15 times the number of U.S.-produced pelts. The two major American fur markets are in New York and Chicago, and there are approximately 1,500 retail stores in the United States specializing in fur garments.

Although China grabbed the lead from Denmark in 2006 and 2007, China's mink pelt production declined rapidly in the late 2000s, and Denmark regained its status as the world's largest producer of mink pelts, with a 30.1 percent global share in 2009. Denmark was also considered to be the leader of top-quality pelts. China held a 19.3 percent share, followed by the Netherlands, 9.7 percent; Poland, 7.9 percent; and the United States, 6 percent. Canada and Finland followed with 4.9 and 4.5 percent shares, respectively. Production of pelts has ebbed and flowed with global demand and economic conditions. From a high output of 42 million pelts worldwide in 1988, production fell to just 20 million pelts in 1993. Then, demand steadily increased until a new high was reached in 2007 of 55.8 million pelts, primarily due to China's rapid expansion of its mink production. However, when China curtailed its mink output, the global numbers fell once again, reaching approximately 46.5 million in 2009.

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