Author: Philip J. Nichols
Ernest Thompson Seton (founder of the Boy scouts) wrote The Gospel of the Redman in which he recounts the culture, beliefs and practices of the indigenous people of the Americas, as told by Tecumseh, Pontiac, Crazy Horse, Powhatan, Sitting Bull and others.He tries to put into words, to understand the Indian culture, from a white man's perspective. One cultural theme common to all tribes is the practice of resource conservation. This concept applied to the buffalo, salmon, turtle and all other harvested creatures, means that all parts of the animal have a value and purpose, to be used as much as practical and possible: skin, scales, fur and hair, skull and bones, meat and fat, claws and teeth, glands, organs, sinew and gut.
This idea has found recent resonance and relevance because of covid. Covid caused a worldwide contraction of many things including the Chinese and Russian market demand for raw fur. Trappers faced record low prices for most items and either stopped producing altogether, or found other, non-traditional outlets. One such outlet developed during the covid shutdowns, as people lost regular jobs altogether, or were sent to work from home. A good number of them used this time to explore their creative self. Artistic expressions in crafting, garment making, weird taxidermy and other talents created a demand for raw material.
As work shutdowns lifted and covid has diminished, these people have not flocked back to their old jobs. Instead of returning to the security of a steady paycheck, many have now found the way to live their dream and get paid. This new sub-culture of crafter/artist creators needs raw materials that are being provided by the people who have access to these materials, trappers and hunters. Another potential source of raw materials are nuisance wildlife control operators (NWCO.) Some have already discovered this outlet to profit from animal remains they would normally discard in the trash.
This scene is relatively new to NWCO’s, and it remains to be seen how many will see it as worth the effort it takes. For a larger operation with year-round work, a fleet of trucks, and employees, the business model where animal remains are simply disposed of (trash, burial, cremation, etc.,) would not allow for treating remains as a product. However, in smaller operations, down time and slow seasons could be used to practice this conservation ethic. What does this look like in reality?
The process starts immediately when the animal is killed since the first consideration is to halt or slow down decomposition. In a warm climate situation the carcass is kept in an ice filled cooler. External body fluids and blood are removed and the body is bagged in plastic. At this point the decision will be to sell it whole without any further processing, or to remove saleable parts (skin, meat, glands, etc.) to sell individually. Another option is to freeze the animal until buyers are found, and the terms of sale are agreed on.
For example: when a taxidermist advertises their need for a whole animal, the NWCO having that animal (frozen in the freezer) reaches out to the taxidermist. The price, method of shipping and who pays shipping are agreed on. Example: a whole frozen otter shipped across four states cost $60.00 UPS ground. It arrived in three days and was still frozen (February)...the taxidermist paid $125.00 for the otter plus the $60 shipping. Shipping frozen animals is best done in the winter.
Packaging for the otter example was a styrofoam box (from old Omaha Steaks box,) that was then put inside a cardboard box provided by the UPS shipping depot. Lacking a free styrofoam box, a cheap styrofoam cooler can be had at the Dollar Store. The costs involved in packaging and shipping are most always dictated and paid for by the receiver.
Selling a whole creature is the easiest way, but more money can be made by knowing how to process an animal using the protocols required by the end user. Know how to prepare skins for life sized taxidermy and you will get much more than the market value for raw fur processed for the raw fur market. Skull collectors want skulls undamaged (no bullet holes) and fresh frozen. Unusual animals such as albino, odd color, and extremes of normal size for a specimen, are sold at a premium.
Non-fur animals also have a market: alligator hide, teeth, claws and skull: antelope hide, horns, skulls and capes: deer, moose and elk skulls with antlers, capes and sinew: javelina hides and skulls: marmot and groundhog hides and skulls: mountain beaver and moles frozen whole: gamebird hides and feathers, snake skins and turtle shell. Quantities of items are needed for jewelry (e.g. penis bones from raccoon, mink, fox, etc.,) and laboratories (e.g. embryo’s, frogs, neonates, worms, eyeballs, etc.)
You can get an idea of some of the things being done with these natural materials by searching Etsy and Pinterest. Enter “fur crafts” in the search box. etc.)
Here are three resources that list buyers for natural products:
(1) Moscow Hide & Fur ( furbuyer.com is the catalog and price list of items that they are currently interested in buying)
(2) Trapper to Taxidermist (private facebook forum for buying and selling wildlife products)
(3) Taxidermy.net (internet based community for free exchange)
It goes without saying that all federals, state and local laws are your responsibility to know.
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