While in Dorchester County on February 3rd, I came across a father and son team trapping the marshes of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Robert Elzey is a fifth generation trapper and his son, Matthew is carrying the winter tradition onto the sixth generation. I sparked up conversation with the two of them and eventually invited myself into the fur shed at their house where they were skinning the days catch. Their hospitality and willingness to share experiences and give a brief glimpse into their way of life was incredibly generous.
The furs are sold to a buyer from New Jersey and from there they will go to a tannery and ultimately sold to markets in Asia. The domestic demand for furs has diminished over the last three decades and has had a negative impact on the price. A top quality pelt may only bring the trapper four to five dollars. The meats are sold locally on the Eastern Shore and are considered a delicacy in some circles. Muskrat meats fetch around three dollars each. This season has been productive for Robert and Matthew, the record rainfall helped the breeding success of the ‘rats’ - They expect to harvest around 2,000 before the end of the season.