Animals hunted or trapped for their pelts are called furbearers. They share the physical qualities of mammals, but have unique habits. Furbearers are widespread in Missouri. They are known as a group of mammals with some common characteristics. Much like other aggregations of creatures, such as waterfowl, upland game, or cavity nesters, the furbearers of Missouri are a diverse group of animals.
In one sense, all mammals are furbearers, since hair is a uniquely mammalian characteristic. Like specialized teeth, mammary and other skin glands, warm bloodedness (endothermy), and a four- chambered heart) hair is a feature of mammals that separates them (and us) from other vertebrates.
The mammal's coat of hair, or pelage, serves primarily as insulation to keep in body warmth or to retard absorption of heat from the sun. Specialized hairs and coat patterns sometimes aid in concealment, buoyancy, tactile perception (like whiskers), protection or communication.
Pelts (furred skins) have traditionally been valued for human garments and accessories, and mammals hunted or trapped primarily for their pelts are those which are usually called "furbearers." This is somewhat of a utilitarian definition, and while convenient, focuses on only a single aspect of this diverse array of mammals.
Furbearers are also well known for their destructiveness, their dreadful diseases, their sporting qualities, their sometimes inquisitive nature and the scientific interest they hold for naturalists.
The management of these animals by the Conservation Department not only includes regulation of an annual harvest, but also problem wildlife control, disease monitoring, and attention to very differing, and often contradictory, attitudes by people.