New Jersey surveyed trappers in the state and found that one animal is harvested far more than any other, and that low fur prices have likely led to an overall decline in trapping in recent years.

To derive its numbers, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife mailed surveys to 1,280 trappers who received licenses, to get a gauge of trapping over the 2017-18 season. Thirty-seven percent responded.

In all, the trappers said they bagged nearly 20,000 creatures for a total value of $121,000.

The survey found muskrat was the most trapped of 11 species of wildlife logged. Trappers took 9,279 muskrats for a total value of about $26,500. Cumberland and Salem Counties reported the highest number of harvested muskrats. The semiaquatic rodents live in marshes and other wetlands, which are prevalent in the two counties, both along the Delaware Bay.

However, muskrat pelts fetched only about $2.86, making muskrat one of the least valuable species, behind only opossum.

Table shows trapping harvest in New Jersey based on a survey of licensed trappers. Fur prices were based on an auction within the state and five international auctions that were averaged to derive a price per pelt.
Frank Kummer / Inquirer / NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
Table shows trapping harvest in New Jersey based on a survey of licensed trappers. Fur prices were based on an auction within the state and five international auctions that were averaged to derive a price per pelt.

River otters had the most valuable pelts, averaging nearly $35, according to auction prices in New Jersey and internationally.

Raccoons were the second most harvested (4,233), followed by red fox (3,822).

The survey found that about 4 percent of trappers were women. Trappers tend to skew older, with almost one in five over age 65. On average, trappers had 20 years’ experience.

But the number of trappers fell from the previous season, leading the state to conclude that “disinterest due to low fur prices may be the leading cause."

It’s not just the pelts that draws some trappers.

Muskrat dinners have been a staple at the Lower Alloways Creek Fire Company in Salem County for nearly 80 years. The dinner was canceled in January 2018 because of a number of factors, including bad weather and depressed pelt prices. However, the fire company revived the tradition this year and sold out. The muskrats are served deep-fried.

Hey all! We are having a dinner this year!!!! Call the number***** IN THE POSTING *****for info! Hope to see everyone there! But hurry, there are a limited number of seats and tickets....

Posted by Lower Alloways Creek Fire & Rescue on Thursday, January 10, 2019

That state says trapping is well-regulated and used to control animal populations, manage habitat, and protect and reintroduce endangered species. Trappers have to pass an education course before getting their license. The course includes information on how to use traps and snares.

All traps must have the name and address of the person setting them. Traps must be checked at least once a day, preferably in the morning. A lottery is held for beaver and otter permits. Trappers may carry a .22-caliber rifle to kill the animals they trap.