Endangered Species Handbook

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Fur: A History of Endangering Species

     The history of the fur trade, past and present, is evidence that no animal, no matter how abundant, is immune to possible extinction should its pelt become valuable to the fur trade.  A pattern develops as fur pelt prices rise, and the species becomes rare from overtrapping.  These pelts become more avidly sought out.  Commercial extinction can result fairly quickly if animals with valuable pelts are killed at a rate greater than they can reproduce.  Animals whose populations numbered in the millions and whose ranges extended over entire continents have been reduced to near extinction within the space of a few decades, as demonstrated by the trade in spotted cats.  For those animals that are naturally rare in the wild, or rare due to ecological or geographical reasons--the Falkland Island Wolf (Dusicyon australis), the North American Sea Mink (Mustela macrodon) and the Rufous Gazelle (Gazella rufina), for example--extinction came quickly when their pelts were in demand by the fur trade. 

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    ©1983 Animal Welfare Institute