Fur trading, still legal in Connecticut, needs careful oversight
A recent article in the Hartford Courant brought to light an interesting part of Connecticut's economy: fur trading. Despite the fact that fur trading is Connecticut's oldest business, many people are unaware that the state still has any kind of fur trade.
In fact, the fur trade has been growing rapidly in recent years, particularly because of increasing demand for furs in the emerging markets of Russia and China. Due to anti-fur campaigns and groups like PETA, the United States no longer buys large amounts of fur, but we still sell plenty of it. According to The Hartford Courant, the northwestern United States and Canada are still the dominant suppliers of fur in the international market. Trapping is highly regulated and impossible to make a living off of at this point, but it deserves to be watched carefully to make sure that Connecticut's wildlife population doesn't suffer as the result of the growing fur trade.
There are currently only around 300 licensed trappers in Connecticut, and they have restrictions on the number of animals they can trap, such as fishers. Other animals such as coyotes and skunks, which have been deemed nuisances, have no restrictions. At the moment, the level of trapping is unlikely to pose a risk to Connecticut wildlife, but trapping has affected ecosystems in the state in the past.
In the 1600s, the fur trade was a major motivation for exploration and colonization in North America. Adrien Block, the first European to sail up the Connecticut River to the eventual site of Hartford, was on a fur trading mission. Because beavers were in demand at the time, Block and others like him hunted them so intensely that the species disappeared from Connecticut by the end of the 1600s. They were only reintroduced after World War II.
The fur trade clearly has a negative impact on the wildlife and ecosystems of Connecticut if it's not carefully watched. It's not a large market right now, but prices for many pelts have tripled or quadrupled in the last few years. Muskrat pelts even went from about $2.50 to $18 last year.
Under these conditions, it's conceivable that we'll see an uptick in trapping in Connecticut. It's important for the state to balance its important historical and current-day role in the fur trade with sustainable practices.
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