CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In trapping, there's no such thing as a sure thing.
If furbearers are abundant, if the weather cooperates, and if fur dealers need pelts, trappers celebrate good times. If any of those factors fails to fall into place, there's less to celebrate.
Right now, West Virginia wildlife officials believe trappers are in line for a "pretty good" season - if none of those factors goes south.
Rich Rogers, furbearer project leader for the state Division of Natural Resources, said at least one of the three factors appeared solid for Saturday's opening day.
"We should have plenty of animals," he said.
That almost wasn't the case. Last year's phenomenally mild winter allowed trappers to take many more animals than they otherwise might have caught.
"Trappers were in the woods through the entire season, which is pretty unusual," Rogers explained. "In a normal winter, snow and ice and inclement weather create some down time. Last year there was no down time, and it resulted in very high harvests for some furbearer species."
In a normal year, a take that high might have depleted populations enough to affect the following season. Rogers doesn't believe that happened.
"With the mild winter, we had good reproduction," he said. "Animals had decent amounts of food last year, and this year the food supply is good. With all of those factors working in trappers' favor, I expect a pretty good take this season. There should be plenty of fur out there."
He added, though, that other factors could torpedo his prediction.
"We could have a bad winter," he said. "That would certainly affect the take, although some diehards trap no matter what the weather does.
"Or the market could go bad. The market affects even the diehards, what they try to trap and how much they try to trap. But figuring out the fur market is like trying to figure out the stock market. Some bigwig in the fashion industry could say, 'Short-haired furs are the trend this year,' and everything would change."
Right now, Rogers said the market outlook is good.
"Prices were up last year. Even the price for coyotes was up, for crying out loud, and they're a bottom-dollar species because of the time and effort it takes to trap them. Right now the belief in the trapping community is that prices for pelts of all species should remain up again this year."