A Dove looking for a fox
Trapping for fur and gathering herbs for medicinal purposes have been a part of this country's ways and history since our nation was formed. ﾠOnce necessities for survival, today these activities are continued mostly by folks who still heed "the call of the wild."
Each week the pages of The Pocahontas Times are filled with ads, the easiest way to let folks know what is happening, what is for sale, and where to find needed services.
But there is a small ad that is directed to a few specific, hardworking individuals who continue the traditions of the past.
It is an ad for "Dove's Furs."
Dayton Dove, of Peterstown, is a soft-spoken man and a man who knows his trade.ﾠ
And that trade is all about fur and botanicals. ﾠPut a simple question to him about plants or animals, and he can give you the history of the rise and fall in demand and prices.
Dove began his career in this business in 1979, turning his parent's old chicken house into a workshop.
"There were a few local fur buyers then in Grant County - Mr. Veach and Mr Champ," Dove said. ﾠ
Other buyers soon came on board because the market was good.
"It began to raise in the late 1970s up until 1987," he said. ﾠPrices were at their peak and, at that time, Dove was doing business with Hershey International, a buyer that was "big in deer hides and ginseng."
But Black Monday hit the stock market in 1987 and one little- reported, but hard-hit area was the fur industry.
"One company lost $1 million overnight on wild mink," Dove remembered.
To use the term "wild" with mink would have been unnecessary a few years ago, but that was before the Ranch Fur Industry became popular and profitable.
Fur ranchers raise fox and mink like Pocahontas County farmers raise cattle and sheep.
They raise these animals in large numbers and the size of their fox are nearly twice the size of those in the wild.
As an example of what those ranchers can produce, Dove said they recently sold 3.7 million ranch raised mink.
"The Ranch Fur Industry has somewhat controlled the volume of raw fur, and women prefer mink," he said.
Through the West Virginia Trappers Association, maybe 150 mink were sold, he said.
Last season, volume was down on everything due to the weather factor.
"Raccoon is the mainstay of the market," Dove said. "Coyotes have become a bit more plentiful in the last 7 to 10 years. The Northern Brush Wolf bred with the coyote. ﾠThey cycled in here and they are very opportunistic, and their numbers have increased."
Although the number of head of coyotes has increased, the price for a hide is pretty paultry these days, bringing about $1.25 on the market. And if you happen to have any squirrel tails lying around, Dove buys these as they are used to make fishing lures, spinners and flies.
Dove's "Wanted to Buy" ad includes botanicals, as well.
Ginseng is probably the most commonly known root.
This overseas market has been affected by smuggling, but the U. S. Fish and Wildlife research showed that this past season's dig was "up somewhat."
Here too, the wild market has found itself in competition with farmers cultivating ginseng in Wisconsin and some of the Canadian Provinces.
Dove also advertises to buy Goldenseal.ﾠ
This root is from the Buttercup family and has anti-bacterial properties.ﾠ It is used for stomach upsets, sore throats, colds and the like.
"The former Wilcox Drug Company handled $1 million worth of Goldenseal each year," Dove said.
The company closed several years ago and the Goldenseal market was directly affected, with prices falling drastically.
In years past, bear hunters were guaranteed a good price for bear gall bladders, but the buying and selling became illegal in 1999.ﾠ A bill was introduced in the state legislature and it became law "before the Hunters and Trappers associations knew what was happening," Dove said.
Now only a complete bear hide with the tag attached can be sold.
Skunk Cabbage, a favorite snack of the bear, is also on Dove's menu.
Skunk Cabbage is very rich in sialic acid, the same as found in aspirin. Black Willow bark contains this acid, as well, and Sweet Black Birch has methyl sialic.
Cohosh is another root that is in demand.ﾠ Although, Dove normally buys about a ton of these roots a year, larger buyers purchase 20 to 30,000 pounds of the same on an annual basis.
Cohosh is sold mostly in Europe.
"Their medical system allows more botanical plants to be prescribed than here in the states," Dove said.
Each botanical must be inspected by the office of Better Manufacturing Practices.
"The Food and Drug Administration allowed that several prescription drugs have caused illness or death, but it is rare to hear of a problem with botanicals, Dove said.
Dove has been coming to Marlinton since the early 1980s and can be found in the parking lot of Pocahontas Foodland on Tuesday mornings. ﾠ
"The management and employees of the store has a lot of respect for Dayton," Kim Totten said.
They do not charge him for the space and were not surprised when they found that Dove, in response to their generosity, was making contributions to a community organization.
Dove's "store" is open for two hours each Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m