Fur Trade in America. The trapping and killing of animals for their pelts or hides played a major part in the settling of the North American continent. Much of the early exploration of what are now the United States and Canada, in both the East and the West, was done by fur trappers and traders. France, England, the Netherlands, and, on the Pacific coast, Russia all sought furs and they each considered the great abundance of fur-bearing animals to be North America's greatest wealth. The fur trade was so important that it was a basic cause of intense international rivalry that culminated in the French and Indian War.