Aug 22, 2014 - By Randy Tucker, Staff WriterTV personality and coyote caller Les Johnson will speak Saturday.
The Wyoming State Trapper's Association's convention is in Riverton this weekend, and convention chairman Alan Sinner said this year's show features 19 vendors from Wyoming and neighboring states.
Sinner is in his second term as convention chairman and brought the show last year to the Fremont County Fairgrounds in Riverton. The 2013 convention attracted roughly 300 visitors.
Typical of many vendors this year is Eric Kregal of Newcastle. Kregal's fur business concentrates on coyotes, and in an average year, he takes in 150 to 175 of the predators. Kregal works in Weston and northern Niobrara County in Wyoming as well as the Black Hills in South Dakota.
In his business, he calls and traps coyotes and often is requested by ranchers to reduce the number of coyotes on their properties.
A feature vendor last year and again at this year's convention is Gary Macke, of Royal, Neb. Macke operates Macke's Hide and Fur and began his trapping operation in 1973.
"I bought fur from 1973 to 1998," Macke said. "In 2005 I became a receiving agent for North American Fur Auctions."
Macke's four decades in the fur business have allowed him to see major changes in the industry.
"In the 1970s we saw the industry come from low prices to record highs by the middle 1980s," Macke said. "But it crashed again by 1989."
For instance, a raccoon pelt in 1984 or 1985 brought $50, but the price plummeted to only $5 by the end of the decade.
Most people assume that fur trapping is a localized industry, but the market has grown into a global business with China and Russia the leading importers of North American furs.
"If you see people in Russia in winter, someone is wearing fur," Macke said.
Weather is a key factor for determining price in the fur industry. In the spring of 2013, raccoons brought $78 but dropped to only $28 in early 2014 as a result of a warm winter in Russia and Northern China.
"They have a supply of furs on hand, and if the weather is warm, they don't buy as much and the price drops," Macke said. "The fur industry is like anything else. It's a commodity, and it's tied to weather."
As in other industries, the Chinese take things to an industrial scale. China imports raw pelts and processes them into consumer grade products. It costs an average of $26 in the United States to process a beaver pelt while the Chinese do it for $12.
The convention goes into high gear Saturday with speakers and demonstrations starting at 9 a.m. and continuing throughout the day. Other events include participation in trapping, fur handling and calling, with raffles and activities for children also on the schedule. Admission is free.
World-renowned coyote caller Les Johnson speaks at 4 p.m. Saturday. Johnson is host of the television show "Predator Quest" on the Sportsman Channel. Admission to Johnson's presentation is $10 per family.
For more information, call Sinner at 850-6034 or visit www.wyotrap.com.
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