Antique raccoon fur coats can be found in just about every thrift store in Toronto because they’ve been donated by society ladies on mass for the last twenty years. In the late nineteen eighties shifting consumer tastes and catchy animal rights slogans including, “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” killed the market in Europe and North America. Dumpdiggers has reported before how the fur trade is a renewable resource and the unemployment the fashion shift caused severely impacted Native people in remote areas of northern Canada.
But a recent story in the National Post, suggests that Chinese industrialists are buying fur for fashion. They seek polar bear skins rugs and wall mounts, but also fox, mink, rabbit and even raccoon fur for fashion accessories, ornaments and coats. “The Chinese appetite for furry Canadian critters coats has single-handedly revived an industry that, in the North American and European spheres, was left for road kill more than 20 years ago.”
Antique Raccoon Fur Coats
Historically, Native American tribes not only used the fur for winter clothing, but also used the Raccoon tails for ornament. The famous Sioux leader Spotted Tail took his name from a raccoon skin hat with the tail attached he acquired from a fur trader. And right up until the 19th century, coonskins served as means of payment in many southern States.
When the fur trade ended in the 1800s so too did the demand for Raccoon, but certain inventions and fashion whims of the next century increased demand again. The invention of the automobile increased the demand for raccoon fur when ‘automobile coats’ became popular after the turn of the 20th century. To the right is a vintage 'automobile coat' made out of raccoon fur (1906, U.S.)
In the 1920s, another fashion fad emerged among young people, when wearing a raccoon coat like the one in the picture was regarded as status symbol among college students.
Attempts to breed raccoons in fur farms in the 1920s and 1930s in North America and Europe were ultimately unprofitable, and farming was abandoned after prices for long-haired pelts dropped in the 1940s.
Fur industry experts write that to satisfy fashion’s demand for raccoon fur, the annual seasonal hunt in the 1940s reached about one million animals (across the entire United States) and was double that in the nineteen sixties. It lagged for a time in the early fifties but was revived in part by the broadcast of three television episodes about the frontiersman Davy Crockett and the film Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier in 1954 and 1955 which led to a high demand for coonskin caps in the United States.
In 1982, the average raccoon pelt sold for $20. As of 1987, the raccoon was identified as the most important wild fur bearing animal in North America in terms of revenue.
There's a 100,000 Raccoons living 'wild' in TorontoA 2013 BlogTo Article about raccoons in Toronto estimates this wild animal's native population somewhere in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 - that's as many as 12 per square kilometer. Imagine then sleeping in garages, fighting, and poking through garbage. Now consider that each pelt is worth $20 each, and the price is climbing. How much longer will we have a raccoon problem in Toronto?
Raccoon fur coats sell for about $500 USD each on Alibaba, and the price rises in accordance with the quality, brand and particular style of the garment.
SWAT Wildlife runs a raccoon removal service in Toronto, and reports that there is no market for raccoon fur domestically, or for the animals dead or alive. He is a popular and trusted expert on raccoon removal in Toronto on Homestars and reports, "I have never been contacted by a coat maker seeking raccoon fur, not yet anyway". And he quickly adds that he's mandated by the provincial and municipal conservation authorities to release what he catches back into the wild, inside the city. He's not aware of any fur farms. His Nuisance Animals in Toronto HubPage shows stats that his firm collects over 950 raccoons each year.
Interesting fact, most urban raccoons die from a viral disease called 'Distemper' that affects a wide variety of other animal families, including domestic and wild species of dogs, coyotes, foxes, pandas, wolves, ferrets, skunks, and large cats.