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Iowa’s furbearer season opens Nov. 4, and the outlook for 2017 is good as populations are stable to increasing statewide.
Vince Evelsizer, furbearer biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said that while prospects for a good season are there, the number of participants usually follows the fur market.
“When prices are good, we have higher participation. When the market is forecasted to be down, like it is again this year, so is participation. But that lack of competition provides an opportunity to introduce someone new to trapping or someone who’s been out of the sport for a while to come back,” he said.
The recent peak in trapping came in 2013 when nearly 21,000 Iowans purchased a furharvester license. In 2016, about 14,500 furharvester licenses were sold. Evelsizer expects participation in the 2017 season will be similar to 2016.
“This is another opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, enjoy trapping, even if the market isn’t great,” he said.
Furharvester population trends and market forecast
Muskrats - Population, particularly in northern Iowa, is doing well. Prices likely similar to 2016.
Raccoons – Population is strong, but market forecasts are low. Best opportunity is for large adults in prime condition – from Thanksgiving through December.
Coyotes – Population and price is steady. Coyote fur price has been buoyed by the international trim trade.
Beaver – Population is trending up slightly but varies by region
Mink – Population is steady.
Bobcats – Population is expanding in western and eastern Iowa and increasing in numbers. Prices are similar to 2016.
Otters – Population is stable to slightly increasing. Prices are similar to 2016.
Regulations and Ethics
There are no new regulations for 2017. Furharvesters must have a valid furharvester license and habitat fee to hunt or trap all furbearers except coyotes and groundhogs. Coyotes and groundhogs may be hunted with a hunting or furharvester license.
Furharvesters are reminded to respect private property, property boundaries, and the 200 yard separation distance from occupied dwellings or driveways. All traps must be checked every 24 hours, except those which are placed entirely underwater and designed drown the animal immediately.
Otters and bobcats
Furharvesters are required to contact a conservation officer within seven days of taking an otter or bobcat to receive a CITES tag which must remain with the animal until it is sold. They are also asked to turn in the lower jaw or skull of all otters and bobcats harvested to the Iowa DNR, which is used for a population and harvest monitoring.
Coyotes versus wolves
While there are no known wolves currently in Iowa, an occasional wolf will wander through. The Iowa DNR has information at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/Iowas-Wildlife/Occasional-Wildlife-Visitors showing how to distinguish coyotes from wolves.
“Wolves are state and federally protected. If it looks too big or something doesn’t look right, take a second or third look before pulling the trigger,” he said. “Be sure of the target before taking the shot.”
While wolves are protected, bears and mountain lions are not.
“We encourage anyone who comes across a bear or mountain lion to enjoy the incredible experience but leave them alone unless there is a safety threat,” Evelsizer said.