The 2017-2018 trapping season for beavers and otters ends Saturday. From Nov. 18 through March 31, trapping season for those species is open in Kansas. Other species that can be trapped from mid-November to mid-February include badger, bobcat, mink, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, swift fox, red fox, gray fox, striped skunk and weasel.
“Beaver is one of many species trapped here in Barton County along rivers and creeks,” said Jason Wagner, wildlife manager at Cheyenne Bottoms. “Otters, on the other hand, are not, as they really don’t occur here in our area. We don’t have the waterways to support them.
“Even though there is no limit on how many beavers that can be trapped by one person, the sport has declined in recent years with the price of beaver pelts declining,” Wagner said. “Our bread and butter for trapping in our area is bobcats, coyotes and raccoons.”
While farmers harvest grain, Calvin “Trapper” Calp harvests fur. The owner of Calp’s Fur and Root in Hoisington has been a fur dealer for six decades after learning to trap at an early age.
Calp is one of a handful of commercial fur harvesters in Kansas. He renews his fur dealer’s license annually and keeps records on everything he buys and sells.
“Beaver season’s the only thing that’s open now,” Calp said. Opossum, badger and bobcat season closed on Feb. 15. “I’m just getting caught up,” he said Wednesday morning as he worked on a pile of opossum hides. “These here gotta be scraped and dried.”
The beaver and otter trapping season in Kansas will conclude Saturday.
“I bought 25 beaver off of a guy last week,” he said. “I’ve got another guy from eastern Kansas will bring in about 100 later on.” The furs come from all over Kansas and its border states, he said. “As a matter of fact, I get a lot of stuff shipped in from Pennsylvania, New York, Montana and Wyoming ... Utah.”
He ships most of his furs to Canada where they are used to make coats, hats and gloves. Beaver pelts, which he buys for about $5 each, are sold to hat manufacturers such as Stetson. A mixture of beaver and rabbit/hare fur blended with felt resists water and reportedly lasts 5-10 times longer than wool-felt.
Coyotes and bobcats bring in more. Calp said he usually pays $10-20 for a coyote pelt, although an exceptional pelt may bring $50 or more.
In addition to selling pelts in bulk, Calp said, “I ship about 100-150 pieces every year to be tanned for other people. People come in — they catch their first coyote, first bobcat, they want it tanned.” Or they have a pretty skunk or beaver pelt they want to display in a man cave, he said.
Calp said he no longer has time to do any trapping on his own, but a few years ago he and a friend trapped 53 raccoons in a single day on the Arkansas River between Ellinwood and Raymond. Their total catch over five days was 208 raccoons, caught with 83 traps, as chronicled in the 2012 DVD “On the Trapline with Calvin Calp.” On the video, he explains the different traps used and also provides tips such as how to skin and stretch furs to get the best price.
Copies of the DVD are available at his store, which also stocks items such as coyote urine, fish oil and muskrat snares.
Calp said he’s been buying furs since 1969, and began trapping when he was a boy.
“My dad done trapping,” he said. “He died when I was 8 years old and I was the only one who knew where the trapline was.”
Even animals which can be hunted or trapped all year, such as coyotes, provide the best hides in colder months when they have their winter fur, Calp said. Hence the other part of his business, “Calp’s Fur and Root.”
“I buy roots and herbs in the summertime,” he said. One of his most common purchases is Echinacea, also known as Kansas snakeroot, purple coneflower or prairie doctor. One regular customer brings in a load once a month and what he digs brings between $2,000 and $4,000, Calp said.
With furs, roots and antlers, he is able to work year-round.
“I was always interested in it and made a livelihood out of it,” Calp said. “I’m not rich by no means. I’ve been doing this all my life and still live in an old trailer house back there. I get to meet a lot of beautiful people. That’s the main reason I like doing this work. I’m my own boss.”