June 18, 2020

By Bill Pumford, Image from Bill Pumford Collection

TITLE: SKYFOREST FOX FARMS: This week’s image is a real photo of a silver fox. During the 1920’s and into the early 1950’s the raising of foxes for their pelts was the second largest industry in the San Bernardino Mountains; cattle ranching being the first. At its height there were 27 fox farms operating between Skyforest and Big Bear. Fox coats were very popular in the United States during this period and this helped expand the industry here. The mountains provided a good environment for fox farms with the elevation and weather which helped minimize fleas – a major pest for foxes. In 1924 Bernard Rice purchased property off Kuffel Canyon Road in Skyforest and started the Arrowhead Silver Fox Farm. Most of the initial effort was in raising breeding pairs of foxes from which pelts would be later harvested. In 1928 Bernard Rice moved to Big Bear where weather was even more conducive for fox farming. Fred and Elizabeth Obri acquired the Arrowhead Silver Fox Farm property, including the fox pens. It eventually came to be known as the Obri Fox Farm and the Obris became a popular couple in Skyforest. In 1932 a barbeque was held at the Obri Fox Farm to support a local Democrat running for the California Assembly. During the summer the fox farm was often open to visitors and, with the cubs just leaving their nests, provided great entertainment. Litters average four pups but there could be as many as eleven. It was not always easy to raise foxes. In January of 1930 Fred and two companions had to use snowshoes to bring in 300 pounds of meat for his 52 foxes to keep them alive. In August of 1944 Fred Obri died of what was considered to be a broken heart two days after being notified that his son, Ensign Norman Obri, died in a plane crash during World War II. By 1955 the Walter Clark Memorial Community Church acquired the property.

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