FUR Farming a Growing Industry

That the existing natural supply of furs can be supplemented by raising fur animals in captivity is being more fully appreciated year by year. Conceived by a few individuals only a comparatively few years ago, fur farming has steadily developed until now there are more than 4,000 fur farmers in the United States, Canada, and Alaska, most of them engaged in raising silver or blue foxes. The total investment in the business in the United States and Alaska is about $30,000,000, and in Canada about $11,000,000. Fur farming is also being undertaken in European countries and in Japan, where it is having a steady, quiet growth.
[#LivesMeasuredIn$$$ -ASC]

Every developing industry sooner or later reaches a stage where it requires scientific study. Fur farming is no exception, and Congress has authorized the department, through the Biological Survey, to make investigations and experiments in the production of fur animals. These are now being conducted under wild and semi-wild conditions with various species, including domesticated rabbits. Constant effort is made to obtain all information essential to the requirements of this growing industry, with special attention to disease and parasite control and the utilization of fur as a natural resource. The experimental fur farm, where the work is in progress, is in Saratoga County, N. Y., and is open to the public on Wednesdays and Sundays from June to November, that visitors may note the work the Government is doing to assist fur farmers.

FIG. 102.—Well-organized fox ranch. Fox farms are found in practically all the northern tier of States from New England to Washington and Oregon

FIG. 103.—On a silver-fox farm. Fox farms produce more than 90 per cent of the silver-fox pelts sold in the fur markets of the world

Blue-fox farming is confined chiefly to islands off the coast of Alaska, where the foxes have free range, but is gradually spreading to the mainland of that Territory and to Canada and the United States, where the animals are raised in pens.

For generations muskrats have been produced profitably with a small outlay of money and effort, chiefly on privately owned marshlands in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Louisiana. Scientific study of the requirements of muskrats is now being undertaken in their natural habitat with a view to their perpetuation as a valuable natural resource.

Beaver Fur Production

Should beaver farming prove profitable, it would make remunerative large areas now unproductive but well suited to such an enterprise. The production of beaver fur might be readily increased by the simple expedient of restocking depleted areas within their original range, where the animals could feed and breed without molesting forest or farm property.

Fig. 104.—Section of a large rabbitry. Better meat and fur are produced by hutch-raised than by wild rabbits

Skunks, raccoons, and minks are not difficult to raise in pens, but at the prevailing raw-fur prices the undertaking with these species would not pay. Only in very exceptional instances have breeders been successful in producing litters of either martens or fishers in captivity. Rabbits, however, are being raised profitably for both meat and fur, and the rabbit industry is developing rapidly, especially in Pacific coast States.

There is ample basis for a sound industry in propagating fur-bearing animals. Fur farming is growing and should become a permanent addition to our agricultural development, for it is desirable both in the utilization of nonagricultural lands and in the production thereon of valuable crops of fur.