Unlike with many other North American game species, the existence of a legal commercial market for fur means harvest of furbearers is partially motivated by economic gain. Participation in trapping is known to increase with fur prices, which may also increase motivation for users to engage in illegal harvest. Trappers may exceed restrictive bag limits by making use of licenses purchased by non-trappers (with success and potentially effort then being falsely reported by individuals that did not actually trap), take furbearers within closed areas or during closed seasons (with harvest location and dates then being falsely reported), or engage in “high grading” by discarding inferior quality fur or smaller-sized animals in favor of higher quality or larger-sized animals.
A lack of compliance with legal harvest rules may not only place populations at risk of overexploitation, but also promote generation of falsified data, interfering with assessment of harvest regulation and evaluation of impacts of regulated harvest on population dynamics and viability.
Incorporating knowledge about the nature and extent of illegal take of furbearers can improve enforcement efforts and aid calibration of population models and effectiveness of regulations developed and implemented by the state to ensure the furbearer resource remains sustainable.