When someone comes across a dead animal that they’d like to keep as a taxidermy item, they have to assess how the animal has met its death. Illegal hunting and killing is still happening today, and any suspicion thereof has to be reported to local authorities or the taxidermist, whom will then contact the concerning departments.
Once you’ve established that the animal has indeed died a natural death, for example roadkill, you can bring it to a taxidermist of your choice. In case of birds and small mammals it is best to put the animal in a plastic bag and freeze it if you can’t bring it to your taxidermist immediately. That way, the specimen’s decay will be brought to a halt, and your chances of receiving back a fine preserved specimen improve greatly. Although it’s often hard to tell how long ago the animal died, the eyes are usually a good indication. If the eyes still rounded it’s reasonably fresh, but if the eyes have dried out a little and show wrinkling, or worse a complete indent, it’s a bit older. Your taxidermist should be able to tell you if the animal is still salvagable or not.
Once the taxidermist has done a quick check on the animal to see if there are no oddities, he/she writes it into their register. Once that is complete, the animal is moved to the taxidermists project freezer. When the time arrives for your taxidermy project, the taxidermist will remove it’s skin and wash it thoroughly. The anatomical structure of the animal, along with other measurements such as eyes and key feature placements are carefully noted.
Then the body is re-sculpted, either by a foam cast of the original body, woodwool or a combination of both. The measurements made earlier are carefully followed while making the replacement body. Once the skin has been washed, treated and tanned it goes back over the new form.
The skin is moved back to it’s original position on the body. Feathers or fur are carefully placed back in the right areas. The face needs a lot of work to bring back the animals expression. The detailing of a taxidermy piece is a precise process, and can take up days of work. The skin then needs to dry, and once all is done, skin tones are touched up with fine detail paint work or airbrushing.
A professionally mounted piece will last for many generations if good care is taken of it. Please see the FAQ for more info on how to take good care of your taxidermy piece.