A mini-boom in one of the oldest businesses in Michigan is offering at least a few Upper Peninsula entrepreneurs a windfall -- if you can define a fur trapper as an entrepreneur. (Tramp for hours through freezing swamps to maintain a trapline? Works for me.)
The Wall Street Journal visited Calumet in the U.P. to report on a sharp increase in the demand for muskrat pelts, spurred by emerging economies that favor the animal's belly fur to line boots and coats. If you can't get past the WSJ pay wall, here's the money paragraph:
At $10 per pelt — five times what muskrats fetched in the 1990s — pelts were trading at new highs when bidding for last season's furs ended in June.
Buyers for a Canadian wholesaler, Fur Harvesters Auction Inc., have been making rounds in the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest, where the semi-aquatic rodents are plentiful and, in Michigan, have no bag limit.
There are fears that a softening European market may depress prices in 2012, but for now, the men and women with the skills and initiative to collect the animals are being rewarded.
Of course, this suggests there's also a surfeit of muskrat meat out there. A quick Google turns up plenty of recipes to consider. As for the best wine to accompany Picante-Cranberry Muskrat? You're on your own.