How to Stuff an Animal for Taxidermy

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Taxidermy has been around since ancient times. “Stuffed” animals were present in Egyptian tombs, castles during the Middle Ages and are still a favorite home decoration for hunters and others to project an outdoor theme at home. Taxidermy is like any art form in that it takes only a bit of study to learn what to do; however, it takes special talents, skills and training to become a true artist.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife
  • Excelsior
  • String
  • Wire
  • Glass eyes
  • Borax
  • Digital camera
  • tape measure

Skinning the Animal

  • Remove the skin from the animal. Whether the animal to be mounted is a mouse or an elephant, the first step is to skin it.

  • Make the initial cut through the hide or skin as small as possible and in as inconspicuous a place as possible. Picture in your mind how the finished mount will be displayed, and make the cut accordingly.

  • Separate the skin and flesh by pulling as much as possible. Cutting invariably leaves some meat on the skin which will eventually need to be trimmed away. Cutting also increases the chance of making unwanted nicks or cuts which will have to be carefully sewed shut.

  • Leave the feet unskinned on small mammals but remove skin down to claws, hooves or toenails on larger animals. Cut carefully around the ears, eyes and lips when removing the skin from the head.

  • Take a digital photograph of the carcass from several angles and make measurements of length, girth and other body parts before it’s discarded or eaten.

Preserving the Skin

  • Remove as much fat or flesh still clinging to the skin of the animal as possible.

  • Preserve the skin of large animals such as deer and other big game by tanning. Home tanning kits are available, or the skins can be sent to commercial tanneries. that will do the task for you while you complete the other taxidermy work.

  • Apply a dusting of Borax to block microbial action on the skin of smaller animals until it dries.

Make the Body

  • Consult the measurements of the body as well as digital photos to recreate the body of the animal. Poke wires through bundles of excelsior, then wrap it with string to recreate the size and shape of the original legs, torso, neck and head.

  • You can also use a pre-made form from a taxidermy supply house if the animal being mounted is of ordinary size and the mount is to be a standard pose.

  • Insert glass eyes into the head of the imitation body.

  • Position the skin on the imitation body.

  • Sew up the initial incision.

Final Touches

  • Bend the wires inside the legs, feet, neck, torso and tail to pose the animal in a natural position.

  • Comb the fur or hair to make it look sleek and natural.

  • Allow to dry for a week or more. Use cardboard and straight pins to hold ears, toes or other features in position until the skin dries completely.

References

  • Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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