FUR SALE

Coats from the ranch

A ranch in western Montana has been growing steadily ever since the discovery was made about thirty years ago that its very special herd of livestock breeds only underwater, A system of cement canals was built and the animals were sheltered, fed a balanced diet, and given just the right combination of vitamins. Now the herd has grown to over 4,000. But the ranch needs no wranglers on horseback, no branding irons, no cowboys cooing “get along little doggies.”

If the ranch hands talk at all to their charges, they more likely say, “Gee, Beav!” This part of Montana’s Bitterroot Valley is beaver ranching territory. The ranches, with the collective, less than romantic name of International Domesticated Furs Ltd., are subsidiaries of Great Western Equities Group Inc., and two Dallas businessmen, Mike Byrd and Jimmy Hooper, hope to get rich on the shiny pelts of this unusual herd.

After buying stock last year in Great Western, the two were able to acquire 1986 world marketing rights for ranch beaver. This fall, their company. Beaver Ltd., began selling 200 brown men’s and ladies* beaver coats at about $3,900 each. The purchase of one of these first-edi-tion coats, which are numbered like limited-edition prints, guarantees the buyer first dibs on later editions. And coats in years to come will be available in a variety of natural colors-a real selling point since furs from wild beavers are brown and beaver coats sold in other colors had to be dyed. Carefully engineered genetic mutations make it possible to raise silver, blond, white, and black beaver. Ranch beavers also sport fuller and silkier coats than those of beaver collected by trappers, Byrd says.

The first attempts to raise these animals in captivity were made in the 1900s, when beavers were in danger of extinction. Since beavers are no longer an endangered species, beaver leather is being used for boots and attachés, and a mixture of pork and beaver is becoming a trendy deli meat.

Beaver Ltd. coats are made in Beverly Hills and will be sold at exclusive shows and private fittings in New York City, Los Angeles. North Carolina, and Dallas. Beaver Ltd. can be reached at 851-4244.

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