Luxury downturn hits U.S. beaver trappers

Wed Dec 17, 2008 8:35am EST
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By Ed Stoddard and Jessica Rinaldi

HENDERSON, Texas (Reuters) - Harold Renfro, a stocky east Texan, pulls on a submerged cable and hauls a dead beaver out of a chilly farm pond.

"Here he is, a small one," he said. It was the third of the day.

Hired to kill an animal whose dams can cause flooding on farmland, Renfro would also like to sell the pelt. But his usual buyers are not interested.

"Nobody's buying right now," he said.

Renfro, 46, is the first cog in the many-layered, $15 billion global fur industry, one that is caught in the steel jaws of the global economic downturn.

Thirty years ago, when he started trapping, a beaver pelt would fetch $50. Last year, prices fell to about $12 a pelt.

Now, they are so low he reckons it's not worth the trouble of taking the pelts to the buyers -- if he could find any.

As an economic recession grips the United States and other major economies around the world, luxury goods like fur coats are among the first items to be shunned by shoppers.   Continued...

<p>Trapper and Animal Control Officer Harold Renfro pulls a dead raccoon from a trap in Henderson, Texas in this picture taken December 7, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi</p>