Lynx bait, wolf snares and fair trade for trappers

Mara Spricenieks sells ground up beaver glands. The scent is kept in small, oily, brown-glass jars on display at the Trappers Cache, a new trapping and craft shop on Second Avenue.

Mara Spricenieks sells ground up beaver glands.

The scent is kept in small, oily, brown-glass jars on display at the Trappers Cache, a new trapping and craft shop on Second Avenue.

If the beaver glands aren’t stinky enough, Spricenieks also offers “Marten Magic.”

This is kept in a white plastic bucket on the floor.

As she lifts the lid, the gag-inducing scent of skunk fills the air. (To marten, skunks are a delicacy. And even though there are no skunks in the territory, Yukon marten are still hardwired to track the stinky mammals.)

Whatever is responsible for the offensive musk is hidden under a pile of dirt in the bucket.

“The dirt helps mask the scent,” said Spricenieks.

It seems to be working, because when you walk in the door, the Trappers Cache doesn’t stink.

Instead, the tiny log building with two moose battling it out on the roof smells like smoky, tanned leather.

Moose, elk, sheep and white deer hides are on offer here. As are foot snares, caribou hide scrapers, ear stretchers, trapping concession maps, snare hardware and lots of fur.

Beside piles of wolf and lynx snares sits a stack of Victor rat traps.

“Those are great for weasels,” said Spricenieks.

The Trappers Cache has only been open for about a month, but it’s already doing steady business.

This week, Spricenieks sold 10 wolf snares to one customer, then turned around and sold some sinew and thread to a local crafter.

The end products are also on display, everything from furry ice worms and seal-skin flowers to mink hats, otter muffs, locally tanned moccasins and intricate, embroidered belts selling for more than $900.

But the main business happens behind the scenes.

The Trappers Cache has a contract with the North American Fur Auction, and acts as a liaison for local trappers.

It’s something owner Jeannine Moffatt started more than a year ago.

“Trappers used to bring furs to my house,” said the longtime Yukoner.

But more often, she’d meet them downtown at Tim Hortons, doing business out of her car.

Moffatt does all the paperwork, bags, wraps and ships the fur for the trappers and offers them an advance.

“As soon as the fur is in my hands, it’s insured,” she said.

“I make it easier for them, so they can head back out on the trapline and not worry about all the other stuff.”

Moffatt was going to set up a wall tent in her backyard, near Golden Horn. Besides dealing in furs, she was going to sell her crafts and baking.

But then a couple trappers approached her in the Superstore parking lot last year and suggested she open a store downtown.

Moffatt was mulling it over and working on a business plan with Dana Naye Ventures when she noticed the moose building was empty.

After tracking down the owners, she handed over her business plan and they brokered a deal.

Unfortunately, a drunk driver, who crashed into the front of the building last winter, slowed things down for Moffatt.

“We wanted to be open by last Christmas,” said Spricenieks.

But the insurance process took almost a year.

Now the shop’s up and running, but Moffatt isn’t stopping here.

Her business plans are still expanding.

“I want to start driving to the communities to take out trapping supplies and pick up furs,” she said.

It’s a plan that makes many oldtimers happy, she said.

“A lot of elders trap, but don’t drive. And I want to cater to them.

“The whole idea of doing business is for them.”

Already, Moffatt’s catering to trappers, crafters, out-of-towners and locals looking for authentic Yukon gifts and furs.

In the basement, Spricenieks is sorting through boxes of fur scraps, shipped down by Skookum Brand parkas in Dawson City.

“We use every scrap,” she said.

It’s important in this business to have a sense of respect and stewardship, said Spricenieks.

Both Spricenieks and Moffatt live in rustic Yukon cabins and have a healthy respect for the wilds.

But they also appreciate the warm running water in the bathroom at their shop.

“We bring in our blue jugs,” said Spricenieks with a laugh.

There are other shops in town than sell craft supplies, including canvas, sinew, hides, and lengths of 100 per cent wool stroud used for button blankets.

But Moffatt tries to keep her costs down.

“I’m a sewer myself and I’m tired of paying high prices, because I knew prices didn’t have to be that high,” she said.

Moffatt is also very conscious of paying a decent price for moccasins, fur hats and other local crafts.

“People weren’t getting a fair dollar for the items they were making,” she said, mentioning elders who were only getting $40 for a pair of moccasins.

“Then stores would turn around and sell them for $200,” she said.

Right now, Moffatt is selling most items on commission, including a huge polar bear hide she’s named “Ralph.”

But she plans to start buying items out right, as soon as she can afford it.

“I’m in debt right now, but once my cash flow is back up I can start buying,” she said.

It’s Moffatt’s first business venture.

“I’ve always worked for other people,” she said.

“But this place was needed and wanted.

“And I have no qualms about it failing.

“This place is going to rock.”

The Trappers Cache is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, Friday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s located at 2151 Second Avenue.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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