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Pricey pelts good for Coral

More foxes leads to more jobs

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Coral Harbour (Jan 17/01) - It was a banner year for Louie Bruce.

Not only did the Coral Harbour resident play a crucial role orchestrating the third and most successful bowhead whale hunt to date, the hunter turned trapper is also enjoying the benefits of a boom in the white fox population.

And Bruce isn't alone on the trapline.

Along with him -- working with older-model traps and new quick-kill models -- are the young and old who are cashing in on the high price being offered by southern auction houses for white fox pelts.

The furs are currently selling for $45 each at the Western Canada Raw Fur Auction in Vancouver, B.C.

"We used to trap before, but trapping has been poor lately, ever since Greenpeace killed everything," said Bruce, about the anti-fur sentiment that resulted in the Inuit trapping economy being destroyed.

"This year is really good and it lasts for two years. That's what I heard from the elders so it could be good for the community for two years," said Bruce.

Trappers average about 20 to 25 pelts a week, but usually wait until they have about 50 before heading over to the hamlet's wildlife officer.

Bruce said they turned the skins in, were given an advance of $15 per pelt and paid in full after the fur was sold in the south.

"Ever since the auction announced over the radio that they expected high prices, a lot of hunters went out and set traps," said Jonathan Pameolik, Coral Harbour's wildlife officer for the last year and a half.

He said the season was originally scheduled to open on Nov. 1, but was delayed for two weeks by the local hunters and trappers association in order to give the foxes time to develop their furs. Pameolik said the trappers came in non-stop with skins for sale as soon as they got the local nod of approval.

"(One day) I processed maybe six trappers. They had 119 fox skins," said Pameolik.

He also applauded the cyclical boom in the fox population for the role it was playing in teaching younger generations traditional skills like skinning and trapping.

"A lot of young people are watching their parents and brothers. There's a lot of learning," he said.

Bruce agreed, adding the only problem was the shortage of traps.

"We don't have enough traps. I've been phoning all over to see who has traps for sale. I ordered 20 from Winnipeg," said Bruce, laughing because he cleaned out the southern stock.

He estimated that up to 3,000 white fox would be harvested during the current trapping season.