You could say it’s Brian Johnson’s job to put the ‘fur’ in Fur Rondy.

“We’ve got gorgeous, tanned foxes, wolverines, we have a lot of nice wolves this year,” Johnson said.

As the Alaska Trappers Association’s “fur manager,” he’ll spend more than 100 hours of his time sorting through hides that come in for the annual Fur Auction.

“These are usually a hot ticket item, arctic fox. People love them. They’re really a pretty fur,” he said, holding up a hanger full of pelts.

This year there are more than 1,000 hides from about 65 trappers around the state. Racks and racks of meticulously organized furs are ready to go.

Johnson’s garage is lined with racks and racks of hides as he organizes them for Saturday’s auction.

The price a person will pay at the auction will obviously vary depending on the kind of animal and the size and quality of the pelt.  There are more than 200 red fox hides Johnson expects will sell for about $80 a piece.

He says the black wolves will likely be one of the biggest money makers again; last year one sold for $1,300

"We have three of them are almost identical and that’s a big, nice wolf. Those will be a good auction on the stage,” Johnson said.

Last year the auction brought in more than $100,000. The trappers association receives 12-percent of that; the rest of the money goes back to the individual trappers.

Showcasing their furs at the winter carnival highlights the history of trappers and their trade. Fur Rendezvous started in 1935 as a three-day festival to coincide with the time of year miners and trappers came to Anchorage to sell their goods.

Johnson advises auction-goers to be aware of what they’re buying. There are both raw and tanned hides up for bid. Rawhides need to be tanned—which can be costly—before they can be hung on a wall or turned into clothing.

Brian Johnson shows off a raw lynx hide.

You don’t have to be a fur aficionado to see and feel the difference, though.

"It’s stiff and has a cardboard-like feeling,” Johnson said as the raw lynx hide made a plastic crunching sound. “A tanned fur will be soft and supple."

Johnson said trapping plays an important role in wildlife management but it’s definitely not easy, especially in a state as vast as Alaska.

“It’s a six-hour trip for me to get to start to where I trap,” he said.

Johnson expects this black wolf pelt could sell for up to $1,000.

Still, trappers love the work and take pride in bringing quality pelts to the auction.

"Wolves, the canines are the hardest. The wolves and the coyotes are the hardest to catch,” Johnson explained. "They’re smart, they’re very smart.”

The Fur Auction is Saturday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, March 3. It goes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days on the corner of Third Avenue and E Street.

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