Wildlife taxidermy is a popular hobby for individuals who love the animal kingdom. It is considered a form of art and requires great skill and experience. Hunters, scientists, biologists, zoologists, and amateur hobbyists are known to practice wildlife taxidermy.
What is Wildlife Taxidermy?
Wildlife taxidermy is the art that deals with the preservation of an animal’s body. Its primary purpose is to create a showpiece for display or study. Most often, the natural, lifelike appearance of the animals is conserved. Simply put, wildlife taxidermy is the art of preserving the skins of animals in their lifelike state. It involves curing, stuffing, and mounting of the skin on a frame for exhibition. The artistic piece may be referred to as taxidermy or a taxidermy mount. Individuals that specialize in the art of taxidermy are called taxidermists. Wildlife taxidermy is primarily used to preserve vertebrates. These may include birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles. A few taxidermists specialize in arachnids and insects, generally those that are large in size. Owners of deceased pets may also employ the services of a wildlife taxidermist.
Why Do People Engage in Wildlife Taxidermy?
Several reasons motivate people to learn and practice wildlife taxidermy. Some take it up as a hobby, while others utilize it for scientific studies and research.
Hunters and fishers who live in areas that have legalized the hunting of some species of animals or fishes may want to memorialize their kills. They may want a hunting trophy to display their kill or catch at their home or cabin. Wildlife taxidermy is an ideal hobby for them as it enables them to commemorate their hunting expedition and keep a souvenir for future references.
Museums employ wildlife taxidermy to exhibit a wide variety of animal species as life-sized mounts. The art may be used for recording species that are extinct or on the verge of extinction. It enables the preservation of species in their natural form for future studies or references. Visitors may see animals that are not native to their region.
A major motivation for the creation of wildlife taxidermy is for study purposes. Students, especially those in zoology classes, may get to study a lifelike animal instead of a picture or artistic depiction. Taxidermy facilitates a visual representation of the animal that otherwise may not be possible.
Many people employ the services of a taxidermist to memorialize their deceased pets. They may have a strong emotional attachment to their pet, and wildlife taxidermy provides a great way of paying tribute to their furry friends. It is also known as pet preservation.
Taxidermy is also practiced as a form of art. Many artists engage in wildlife taxidermy for creating artistic pieces that exhibit animals in interesting poses or their natural habitat. A few of them are used as a part of the design and décor of residences, offices, or studios.
Methods to Create Wildlife Taxidermy?
There are primarily two methods employed to create wildlife taxidermy – Armature Mounting and Freeze-Dried Mounting.
Armature mounting is the traditional process of creating wildlife taxidermy that involves multiple steps.
First, the carcass is delivered to the wildlife taxidermy facility as soon as possible after the hunt or catch. It is important to prevent the decomposition of the corpse. It may be stored in a cooler for transportation if required. The cadaver may be preserved in a freezer until the taxidermist is ready to work on it.
Next, the carcass is skinned and any remaining flesh or cartilage is removed. Salt is applied to the skin of the hide, and it is left to dry. Once the drying process finishes, the skin is treated with chemicals or tanned to turn the hide into leather. It is then mounted on a mannequin, stuffed with a material like cotton, and sculpted using modeling clay. Alternatively, the animal’s skull and leg bones are used as a foundation to create a mannequin along with galvanized wire and wood wool.
Glass and ceramics are used to create eyes and teeth. Many suppliers provide readymade forms and eyes. Paint may be applied to define features and give the wildlife taxidermy a lifelike appearance. It is displayed after finishing touches are applied.
Freeze-dried mounting is a modern process of wildlife taxidermy. In this process, the animal is practically mummified. However, it is suitable for small mammals, including cats and dogs, and not recommended for large species.
The cadaver is prepared by removing internal organs and replacing the eyes while the skeleton, musculature, and tissues remain intact in the body.
The animal is set into the desired pose and placed in a specially designed freeze-drying machine. It freezes the animal and removes moisture by subjecting it to high pressure and temperature. The process may take anywhere from a few weeks to months, depending on the animal’s size.
Freeze-dried mounting is a preferred method of pet preservation. It is less invasive as compared to armature mounting and captures the animal’s expression better.
Sometimes, wildlife taxidermy may be made entirely from artificial materials by creating an exact replica of the deceased animal. Photos and physical measurements of the animal may be taken for the same.
Where to Learn Wildlife Taxidermy?
Wildlife taxidermy is taught in many schools, institutions, museums, and art studios across the US. Hobbyists can enroll in a taxidermy program as well as take an apprenticeship to master the art. The program may last anywhere from four weeks to a few months. Apprenticeships are at least one year long but can take two to three years, depending on how much time the student takes to master taxidermy.
Many states may require individuals to obtain a license before they can practice wildlife taxidermy. A few states may only make the registration mandatory if you practice taxidermy commercially. Taxidermists may need a special permit for mounting protected species of animals. The qualification and skill-level of the wildlife taxidermist may be determined before such a special permit is issued to them. These permits are generally issued by departments dealing with natural resources or fish and game licensing. Special permits may be granted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.