39th-annual fur tables saw large quantities of marten from Manitoba’s northwestern region

It hasn’t been a cold fall and early winter throughout all of Northern Manitoba but the organizers of the 39th-annual Thompson fur tables Dec. 14-15 say they couldn’t have asked for a better event.

“It appears that the amount of fur coming in, the quantity’s higher, the quality looks good,” said Manitoba Trappers Association president Rob Andrushuk. “There seems to be more crafters and other people who want to be involved. Other people in the community have really stepped up like the hotel association, the Chamber of Commerce and have provided meals for the trappers and entertainment.”

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Andrushuk said the event is sort of like a Christmas present, in that you don’t know what it will be like until it arrives.

“This year it seems like the Christmas present’s better than it was last year,” he said.

Along with warmer weather, another factor that came into play was the timing of the event, which is as far away from Christmas as it can possibly be, meaning trappers had fewer days to harvest.

“The way the calendar falls next year will be better because it’ll be closer to Christmas the week that we’re selecting,” said MTA vice-president Ron D. Spence from Nelson House, who said northwestern areas of the province had the best production. “We’re always surprised and impressed with the production, the amount that comes in. Most of the marten that’s coming in by the hundreds is in the Brochet, Lac Brochet area.”

Roger Toews of Fur Harvesters, which sells fur on behalf of trappers to world buyers at markets in Ontario, concurred, saying that the marten he’d been seeing was fairly high quality, given the weather.

“The marten is the number one fur up north here by far,” said Toews, who can’t remember how many years he’s been coming to the event. “All the other stuff is like nickel, dime and penny in terms of its value to the trappers. I’ve been quite impressed with the quality of the marten for a year in which the weather overall wasn’t that cold to begin with.”

Nearly 6,000 pelts with an estimated value of $307,382.22 changed hands at the fur tables, which were attended by 161 trappers. The average number of pelts per trapper was 37 and the average value per trapper was about $1,910.

Marten accounted for about 80 per cent of all the pelts exchanged, either for cash or for money to be paid later, minus a commission, when the furs are sold to global buyers. The average price for a marten pelt was $58 and 4,765 were brought in, for a total value of about $276,000. About 6.5 per cent of the pelts were mink, which sold for an average value of $10. About 3.5 per cent were muskrat, with an average value of $2 each. The only other type of pelt accounting from more than two per cent of the total sales was lynx at about 2.4 per cent and with an average value of $70 per pelt. Beaver, otter and red fox made up between one and 1.5 per cent of the pelts sold. Beaver went for $15 on average, red fox for $20 and otter for $30.

Trapper Sidney Beardy from York Landing said he hadn’t had much time to trap this year because he’d been travelling back and forth to Winnipeg but hoped the two wolves, eight marten and a few fox pelts he had would be enough for his Christmas shopping.

“It all goes to gifts,” said Beardy, who’s been trapping by himself for the last seven years or so, having previously done most of his trapping with his father. “I’d been helping my father here and there over the past years and now he’s getting old and unable to move. I’ve kind of moved on and started trapping by myself.”

The Oswald Hudson Award, named for a former fur manager with the province’s Sustainable Development department and awarded annually to the trapper with the best harvest, fur handling and preparation in the previous trapping year was presented to Ernest Halkett of Brochet by Andrushuk and Daryll Hedman of Manitoba Sustainable Development.

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