Students Net Profit at Trapper's Fur Auction

Beth Ipsen / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / March 22, 2004,1413,113~7244~2034039,00.html

Delta Junction trapper Wayne Crowson usually sells animal hides, but at the Alaska Trappers Association fur auction in downtown Fairbanks Sunday Crowson was actually more interested in buying furs.

Crowson was set to barter on fox hides that Bethel school children had trapped and sent to the 27th annual auction during the Fairbanks Winter Carnival.

He was enjoying the "wheeling and dealing" of the auction and the fact that his purchases would hopefully keep the children interested in a lifestyle that Crowson has enjoyed for the past 25 years.

"I want to support these kids. I want to go out and encourage them," Crowson said. "The only way I can do that is to purchase their furs at auction. That way they see it's a good income and a way to make money, plus it's better than being on the streets--keeps them out of trouble."

The 12 to 15 Bethel students taking trapping lessons caught 120 red fox furs this year, said Ace Calloway, organizer of the auction. John Hagen/News-Miner GOING ONCE--Terra Johnson holds up a moose antler being auctioned off Sunday afternoon at the Alaska Trappers Association Fur Auction in downtown Fairbanks.

The children put in a $5 minimum bid on the fox hides, but Calloway said Saturday's action netted nothing less than $55 each.

"There's going to be some surprised kids out there when they learn that their little trapping class ended up being a pretty good deal," Calloway said.

The rest of the hides were either trapped locally or provided by the state Fish and Game Department. The furs are sold on a 10 to 15 percent consignment that goes to the Trappers Association. Otherwise the money goes to the trappers, many of who live in the Bush.

The Trappers Association auctioned five bear hides Saturday confiscated by Fish and Game, mostly through shootings that are deemed in defense of life or property. Because the agency sometimes donates hides to schools for studies, the number of bear hides was down from between 15 and 25 in previous years and bison hides were nonexistent this year, Calloway said.

There were also rows of antlers that were auctioned off before the start of the ACS Open North American Championship on Second Avenue Sunday.

Fairbanks artist Ceci Rosende paid $325 for a pair of impressive moose antlers at the auction and had her eye on another set. Rosende said the purchase was a little pricey, especially since she had only recently started carving.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to do with these," Rosende said, glancing down at her purchase. She draws a lot, but as a novice carver she was debating on whether to mount the antlers and tackle them when her skills improve.

The other set she was looking at, however, would probably be a carving project to send to her father in Florida, she said.

After the 17 sprint dog teams left the starting chute in two-minute intervals starting at 1 p.m., the bidding started up for the animal pelts.

There were red fox hides hanging on the left side of the stage while lynx, otter, martens, wolverines, coyote and wolf pelts rounded out the right side of the stage set up next to Big Ray's Store. Stacks of round beaver pelts sat on the floor of the stage.

"A lot of people in the Lower 48 would like to have you think that trappers concentrate on wolves and there's a lot of them that set a lot of wolf traps out, but that's one of the least money-efficient types of trapping," Calloway said. "You'll get more money out of your lynx. Lynx are easy to trap."

Some were going for $250, a higher price than some of the wolf hides were getting.

However, Calloway said the small marten hides were the "cash crop" of Alaska trapping.

"They're easy to skin, easy to put up and they're luxurious fur that's really sought after," he said. Not to mention, the traps cost around $5 each versus the $85 that wolf traps cost. The small animal hides also sell at about $50 to $80 each.

"You can make a real good living trapping martens in this country," he said.

Reporter Beth Ipsen can be reached at or 459-7545.

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