Cooperative Extension Service•
College of Agriculture and Home Economics
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How to Prepare Pelts
Jon Boren and Brian J. Hurd
Extension Wildlife Specialist and Extension Research Specialist
Correctly preparing pelts is essential to secure topmarket price or to allow for successful tanning. If pelts are to be sold, it is simply good business toprepare them properly. Uniform preparation is animportant consideration because pelts are graded bysize, quality and appearance. For those wishing totan pelts for personal use, pelts must be preparedproperly to facilitate a high quality finished prod-uct, whether tanned at home or sent to a commer-cial tannery. This publication presents proceduresand techniques for skinning animals and preparingthe pelts for sale or tanning. If you intend to sellyour pelts, it is best to check periodically with anestablished fur buyer for preferred methods of skin-ning and handling, as they may change. Similarly,you should check with the tannery you plan tosend pelts to if having them tanned commercially.Most furbearing animals alternate between win-ter and summer coats. Winter coats provide theanimal with added protection from the elementsand are thicker and fuller than summer coats.Therefore, the most valuable furs are taken duringthe colder months. The winter coats of youngeranimals become prime (fully developed guard hairand underfur) earlier in the fall than those of olderanimals. The time frame of when a pelt is mostmarketable varies with species of animal, climate,region and market conditions. However, most fursare thick and marketable by early December eventhough they may not be fully prime.Fox and coyote pelts begin to drop in qualityand appearance during the breeding season, whichis usually from late January through February inNew Mexico. Bobcat pelts are often prime as late asApril, but condition of fur varies considerably byindividual.Before harvesting any furbearing animal, it is im-portant to know and understand all state rules andregulations regarding harvest, possession, and tradeor sale of furbearing animals and their pelts. InNew Mexico, a furbearer license is required for resi-dents age 12 and older and all nonresidents tohunt, trap or possess protected furbearers. Pro-tected furbearers (raccoon, badger, weasel, fox,ringtail, bobcat, beaver, muskrat and nutria) can beharvested only during furbearer season. Nonresi-dents also must have a license to harvest unpro-tected furbearers (skunk and coyote). When usingtraps to harvest furbearing animals, a Trapper IDnumber is required. This ID number is providedfree by the New Mexico Department of Game andFish (NMDG&F) and can be obtained by calling(505) 476-8038. All bobcat pelts are subject to spe-cial tagging requirements and must be presented toa licensed fur dealer or any NMDG&F officewithin 30 days of harvest for tagging. It is illegal totransport across state lines, barter, sell or otherwisedispose of any bobcat pelt taken in New Mexicounless it is properly tagged. Furbearers other thanbobcat are not subject to the special taggingrequirements.The New Mexico Department of Game andFish annually publishes rules, regulations andseason dates for hunting and trapping furbearers inthe Big Game Rules and Information Booklet. Thisbooklet is available where New Mexico huntinglicenses are sold or online at
. Always stay up to date with the mostrecent booklet, as seasons and regulations maychange periodically. For further information, youcan contact the NMDG&F state office by phone at(505) 476-8000.
This publication is scheduled to be updated and reissued 10/09.