What Is a Furbearer?
Technically, the term furbearer includes all mammals, which possess some form of hair. Typically, however, wildlife managers use the term to identify mammal species that have traditionally been trapped or hunted for their fur. Furbearers are a diverse group, including both carnivores (meat-eating predators) and rodents (gnawing mammals). Most are adaptable species ranging over large geographic areas. A few animals that are normally hunted or trapped primarily for their meat or to reduce agricultural or property damage may also be considered furbearers if their skins are marketed.
Most furbearers possess two layers of fur: a dense, soft underfur that provides insulation and water-repellent qualities and an outer layer of longer, glossy guardhairs that grow through the underfur, protecting it from matting and abrasion. A fur is said to be prime when the guardhairs are at their maximum length and the underfur is at its maximum thickness. Fur generally becomes prime in midwinter when the coat is fresh and fully grown. The timing for primeness may vary somewhat depending on species, location (latitude), and elevation.
Furs are generally tanned, trimmed, and sewn into garments, rugs, blankets and ornaments and sometimes dyed in a variety of colors and patterns. Furs are also used in fishing lures, fine brushes, and other products. Some furs are shaved and the hair processed into felt for hats and other garments.
A Renewable Resource
Fur is a renewable resource (naturally replenished). It's a product of long traditional use, valued by many for its beauty, durability, and insulative and natural qualities. Fur is only one of many values that people ascribe to furbearers. People have continuously used furbearers in North America for clothing, food, and religious ceremonies for the past 11,000 years.
Influence of the Fur Trade
Fur resources had a greater influence on European settlement and exploration of the continent than any other factor. Many cities and towns were founded as fur-trading centers where Europeans bartered with Native Americans for furs.
River Otter Restoration
River otter restoration programs have been successful in 19 states, including Alaska, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Iowa, West Virginia, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Maryland, Arizona, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
Modern foothold traps (the same traps used by public trappers) have been used to successfully capture river otter to study their characteristics and populations.
River otter were caught with foothold traps in the marshes in Louisiana, where they are abundant, and were released unharmed into other areas of the United States to restore otter populations where they no longer occurred.
Many states now have thriving river otter populations thanks to capture and reintroduction efforts made possible by the use of foothold traps.
Wildlife Research and Restoration
Lynx reintroduced in some western states were captured with foothold traps in Yukon, Canada.
Red wolves are captured, examined, and relocated to reestablish new populations.
Mexican wolves are captured for a captive breeding program that will provide healthy animals for reintroduction programs.
Gray wolves are captured and relocated to reduce stock damage and maintain public support for their continuing restoration.
Source: "Trapping and Furbearer Management: Perspectives from the Northeast" published by the Northeast Furbearer Resources Technical Committee (NEFRTC)