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Cape Gazette
Lewes, Delaware
Jim's Towing Service
February 21, 1997     Cape Gazette
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February 21, 1997
 

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The musk of the rats brings on the biting and the mating in the pre.spring marshes The signs shine like full moons on clear nights: red tail hawks soaring in pairs above green pines along the edges of straw- colored winter marshes; red-wing blackbirds beginning their dis- tinctive songs and trills in bare trees; and bite marks showing up in the hides of muskrats - particu- larly the females. Spring's spic- ing the air. George Sutton leans his nose in- to the soft and thick brown fur of a freshly-trapped muskrat. The white and brown beard surround- ing his weathered face connects with the hair of the hide. "It's a completely agreeable odor," he says, pulling back from the animal. The muskrat is among at least a dozen hanging by their tails from a stout cord in Sutton's work shed behind his home near the entrance to Boat Hole Marina on Love Creek. In a red plastic milk crate on the floor, another dozen muskrats pulled from the traps that day wait to be hanged and skinned. In the summer months, the shed bulges with white plastic buckets and clear bags that support Sut- ton's bait business. The upper New York State native who mi- grated to Sussex 15 years ago lives close to the marshes so much a part of coastal Delaware. But from Dec. 15 until early March each year, the buckets and other paraphernalia make way for Sutton's muskratting activities. "It's the musk," says Sutton. "The odor comes from the musk glands." He reaches into a cardboard box he's pulled from an old refrigera- tor and retrieves a fur from a muskrat skinned the day before. "Keep them in the refrigerator for a day and the fat inside the hide stiffens and it's easier to scrape clean. After I scrape them I stretch them on a board and they dry out completely and then they're ready to be sold. All mine go to a furrier in New Jersey. I think at least 70 percent of them go overseas - to Russia and Japan. The Japanese are becoming more westernized all the time so there's a market for the furs there." (In Russia, where fur hats have BAREF00TIN' Dennis Forney warmed heads for centuries. muskrat fur continues to be a fa- vored material.) Sutton folds back the end of the freshly-skinned muskrat, like turning back the sleeve of a sweater. Two fatty masses, half an inch apart and about the size of a quarter, lie inside one end of the fur. "Those are the musk glands," he says. "We used to get $30 to $35 a quart for those." He noses the glands like he nosed the fur. "Not much smell to them now but in a couple weeks there will be more. For decades perfume man- ufacturers extracted the musk for their scents." Sexual attraction Nature provides the marsh ro- dents with the musk glands for sexual attraction. When the Feb- ruary full moon arrives - this year on Feb. 22 - it signals the begin- ning of the rut for the muskrats - the mating season. "It's starting now," said Sutton. "I'm catching mostly males and I'm starting to see bite marks - mostly in the females. The males do a lot of biting during mating. A lot of people say that's part of the ritual - that it excites the fe- males and makes them more agreeable to mating." The biting might excite the muskrats but it does little for the enthusiam of trappers. "The buy- ers take off for bite marks," said Sutton. "It makes the furs less valuable." For the past several years George Sutton has been the suc- Continued on page 8 Dennis Fomey photo George Sutton stands in his shed with a string of freshly trapped muskrats. CAPE GAZETTE. Friday, February 21- February 27, 1997 - 7 NEW LISTING 20S Federal SL - High on a hill in Milton. This real Victorian has been painted to reflect its charm and that of the owners. 5 BR, 2 BA, IA DR, Parlor, Screened Porch, Rear Deck and a huge wisteria in the back yard. Call me to see this one. Only $159.900. NEW Listing NOW IS THE TIME TO MAKE AN OFFER Ocean Block 16 Hldmmm St - ILl,It 3W - Third floor 2BR condo. Sundeck has ocean view. S! 19,500. ] ,,, ,, , I 2nd Hom( S7B Delaware Ave. - Classic charm. Nice loca- tion. 3 BR. Two off-street parking spaces. Cenal heat and A/C. $122,500. A Taste of Key West In Rehoboth 166 Henlepem Ave. - Brand new C'lmnnia 8 Key West style cottage built for Summer or year round living. 3BR/2BA. First Floor bedroom & bath. Well insulated, gas heat, cenual air, oak floors, fireplace, nice details, nmin free exterior and nicely landscaped. $229,000 i i i i i New Listing 3,500 sq. ft. on 3 Aces While Horse Finns Cape School District 5 Beooms 4Bmhs 2x6 Exterior Walls Dual Heat Pumps Large Kamily Room Combo , , Large Mlmler  New 20x40 in ground swimming pool Two Modem Outbuildings Fireplace Se;urlty System Satellite Dish Antenna Two Car Garage Built in 1989 List Price $229,00O I I I I I I I I I I Illll Doug Davis Associate Broker RE/MAX Realty Group ~ Rehoboth Beach 226-DOUG (Direct) ~ 1-888-226-DOUG (Toll Free)