OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- It's not the wild west when trappers gathered to sell their furs, drink and carouse for weeks. A fur auction bringing together buyers and trappers this weekend is strictly business.
Bill and Dee Jackson coordinate the twice yearly auction sponsored by the First Oklahoma Trappers and Predator Callers Association. The first one is scheduled Saturday in Chandler.
"Last year the first auction (of the season) was a flop because prices were so low," said Mrs. Jackson. "We lost $300. It's just a market thing."
She attributed the last few years of warmer winter weather to the low prices on fur.
"The pelts are just better when the weather is cold."
While Mrs. Jackson was reluctant to say how much money changes hands between the trappers and buyers, she said in past years total sales have been in the five-digit range. "But not the last three or four years."
Brian Barger of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife agreed that last year's market was depressed.
"The value of Oklahoma's fur harvest in 1999-2000 was $9,543 compared to $38,338 the previous year and $318,644 in 1996-97," he said.
This year the expectations are the fur market will be stronger.
"Fur markets change daily, but the trend is for higher demand and better prices, especially on the top-end furs," said Bill Jackson.
"Stabilization of financial markets in China, Russia, Korea and Japan have also helped create higher prices," he said.
Many of the buyers come from out-of-state to the auction that is held in Chandler.
Mrs. Jackson said they have 25 buyers listed for their upcoming auction, while they will be lucky to have 100 trappers on hand.
"Some will just have two or three skins while others will have more than a hundred," she said.
Oklahoma's furbearer trapping season runs from Dec. 1 to Jan.
Most buyers are looking for furs to make garments, with the majority of the furs going to Canadian buyers who then resell them, she said.
"Russia is the biggest buyer of furs." said Mrs. Jackson.
Beaver, bobcat and muskrat skins usually dominate the auction.
Raccoon, opossum and gray fox pelts are also on the auction block with an occasional skunk.
"It's usually accidental when they trap a skunk," she said.