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How do I Become a Taxidermist?

Soo Owens
Soo Owens

Taxidermists take dead animals and preserve them for exhibition. These animals have usually been either hunted and killed or are former pets. In order to become a taxidermist one needs only the skills necessary to complete the task, as no formal education is required. Formal training and apprenticeships are available, however.

When a hunter or former pet owner wants to retain a physical reminder of an animal, he or she may take its body to a taxidermist. The taxidermist constructs a life-like, three-dimensional model of the animal, often encased within the animal's original skin. These are usually mounted in a pose particular to that animal and may be accompanied by a three-dimensional background or placed on a flat, wooden mount. Both the entire animal or just a portion of it, such as its head or front section, can be preserved

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

A potential taxidermist should have a strong constitution. Taxidermists must work with every part of a dead animal, both inside and out. The preservation process involves removal of any tissue that will deteriorate over time. The skin is removed from the animal entirely and treated so that it will not decay.

Some degree of artistic ability and manual dexterity is required to be a taxidermist. After the tissue is removed and the skin treated, the animal will have lost most of its shape and defining features. In order to prevent the total loss of identity, a taxidermist must create a mold of the animal's musculature and sculpt its finer features after the cast is complete.

When the animal's hide has been tanned, the skin color will often change. A prospective taxidermist must possess sufficient painting skills to restore the look of the skin or fur. Paint can revive the skin's hushed tones and make the animal look alive.

Being a taxidermist is similar to being a cosmetic surgeon. To become a taxidermist, a firm grasp of animal anatomy is necessary as the location of any cuts or punctures can significantly alter the finished model. All cuts made should be precisely, placed on the sculpted model, and sewn back together, leaving no trace of any lacerations.

Visiting a local taxidermist is a good place to gain more information on how to become a taxidermist. Other sources of information include museums, which often display animal models that taxidermists have created. There is also a substantial amount of written literature on the subject.

Many schools exist for individuals who want to become taxidermists. Different programs last for different lengths of time, ranging from as little as six weeks to a couple of semesters. Other forms of hands on training, such as shorter workshops, are also available.

If school does not seem like an ideal option, finding an apprentice position may be the best way to become a taxidermist. Depending on the taxidermist offering the apprenticeship, pay may or may not be included. This taxidermist will be able to provide hands on experience on a consistent, daily basis, which is necessary to become a taxidermist.

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