How Taxidermy Works

The Business of Taxidermy

Derek Frampton gives the Horniman Museum's walrus a spring cleaning in London, England.
Derek Frampton gives the Horniman Museum's walrus a spring cleaning in London, England.
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Pay a visit to your local taxidermist and you may be surprised with who you meet. If you're expecting some kind of hillbilly mad scientist with a thirst for blood, then you'll be disappointed. Most taxidermists are animal lovers who feel that preserving and displaying the animal is the ultimate show of respect. Some­ taxidermists work exclusively with non-hunted animals, which usually means road kill. Some only work with natural history museums, educational institutions and organizations like The Audubon Society. If you want to practice taxidermy, you'll need a permit from your state. They aren't expensive -- $6.50 in the state of Oregon -- and they need to be renewed each year.

If you have an animal you want mounted, plan on waiting a while. It's a slow-moving business, and you can expect to wait anywhere from two months to a year or more to get the finished product, depending on your needs. You may get your prize large mouth bass back sooner, but that moose you tracked and killed in Alaska is going to take a while. The actual process doesn't take a full year, but there aren't many taxidermists, and they usually have a backlog of frozen or freeze-dried fish, fowl and mammals waiting to be mounted. Another reason it takes a while is because many taxidermists use commercial tanneries, and the turnaround takes several months. It's a seasonal business because of hunting and fishing laws restricting the sports to certain times of year. Spring and summer means fish, and fall means deer, fowl and other large mammals. The taxidermist spends the winter and early spring working hard to finish up in time for the next fishing season.

The cost of a mounted animal all depends on the size and complexity of the mount. If you want that 6-foot bear you hit with your car to find a home as a rug in front of your fireplace, you can plan on paying around $1,000 [source:]. That same bear would double in price if you wanted it in a standing pose. Your average mounted deer runs in the neighborhood of $500 to $650, and fish only cost about $18 per inch. A duck or other fowl will cost you between $200 and $300 -- flying, standing or sitting.