COLUMBIA — A group of about 60 onlookers lined both sides of the nearly 40-foot-long conveyor stacked with mammal skins.
The Missouri Trappers Association held its first 2012 fur auction Saturday at the Boone County Fairgrounds. Ninety-five licensed fur trappers sold a variety of pelts from beavers to skunks.
Beaver and raccoon furs shared the expanse of the three-foot-wide conveyor with fox skins, coyote pelts and whole-body bobcats.
While one end of the conveyor was kept fed with new furs, five of the 17 licensed fur buyers sat in a line near the other end with yardsticks in hand and other buyers standing close behind.
“Three rats right here,” Charles Gross, 66, an auctioneer from Owensville, quickly shouted.
After buyers measured and stroked the pelts, bidding on the muskrats started at $3 apiece, and each sold for $6. A more attractive bundle of 32 muskrat pelts followed, and a bidder nabbed the lot at $13.25 per skin.
Greg Blackmore and his son, Travis Blackmore, brought the skins of four coyotes, 243 raccoons, 300 muskrats, 12 otters and 20 beavers to the auction.
“The (beaver) price is high dollar this year,” Greg Blackmore said. “Mine sold for $120 each.”
High fur prices and good weather conditions have made it a good year for Missouri trappers, said Karl Rice, spokesman for the Missouri Trappers Association. Dealers have come from all over the Midwest, he said.
Dean Hoffman of Central States Fur in Aurora, Iowa, bid mostly on raccoon skins. Central States Fur was ready to spend up to $30,000 on fur at the auction, and most of what it buys will likely be sold internationally.
“China buys most of it,” Hoffman said.
The fur is processed in China and is then sent back to the U.S. for distribution, Rice said.
Some species traded overseas require special attention. Bobcats and otters taken in Missouri need to be tagged according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to ensure the animals were killed legally.
Missouri bobcats and otters need tagging because outside of the state differing species of bobcats or otters are listed as endangered species and cannot be legally sold, said Andrew Mothershead, a Missouri Department of Conservation Deputy for Saline County. The tags let buyers know everything is legal, he said.
“When you get just a fur, it can be very hard to tell the difference between what is an endangered species,” Mothershead said.
Another round of furs will be auctioned Feb. 11 at the Boone County Fairgrounds.