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Creepin' It Real
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Discussion Starter #1
Based on the conversations I've participated in and the PMs I've answered, it seems like it's time for an "all things taxidermy" thread. Show off your mounts, ask questions about finding and using supplies in props, and whatever else strikes your fancy with regard to our dead animal friends and using their remains in our haunts.

For the record: I am neither a lawyer nor a trained taxidermist. I am a haunter who has been learning taxidermy techniques, legalities, and such in service of making ever more realistic props using parts of real critters. Anything I say can and should be taken with preservative salts, and is subject to be clarified or overridden by any "real" taxidermists. I restrict my activities to those which do not require a taxidermy license, and plan to keep it that way.

For those who are at least vaguely curious about taxidermy, here are a few fun places to start:

An interesting and inexpensive book about taxidermy past and present is Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy.

AMC ran a deservedly short run series called "Immortalized" which is available on-line at Amazon. The show was wretched, often hilariously so, but it's still worth a look, especially if you're a fan of "so bad it's good" entertainment. I particularly recommend episode 2, "End of the World" and episode 8 "Heaven and Hell" for glimpses of some spectacular mounts.

Taxidermy.net contains a wealth of information, including some valuable permalinks about the legalities of buying and selling in the For Sale forum. There is a beginner's section, but the expectation is that you already know what you're doing, so lurk for quite a while before you start asking questions.

There are zillions of suppliers of items for taxidermy, including those like eyes and forms that are very useful to haunters. The three I use most are McKenzie Taxidermy Supply, VanDyke's Taxidermy, and Joe Coombs Classics. Research Mannikins Inc. is another major player but I have not yet ordered from them.

CarneFX on eBay sells death cast and sculpted jawsets quite cheaply, in a variety of sizes, that look very promising for haunt use.

Morgan Reptile Replicas offers a stunning array of cast herptiles either painted or not. Some regular taxidermy suppliers also sell them, but not necessarily the full line.

Tony Finazzo Taxidermy produces an entire line of cast bird heads, including raptors, corvids, and vultures. Again, full line taxidermy suppliers sometimes sell some of his line, but not necessarily all - and the ones we're most likely to seek out are almost certainly the less popular models.

For a look at what not to do, with the occasionally breathtaking art piece interspersed, try Crappy Taxidermy
 

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since I was told that my bird had to show up here ASAP (lol) here he is...the pic quality is wretched, so my apologies. He is meant as a hat/fascinator, but I will be putting him likely into a shadow box to look like a specimen species :) If I find more, I will definitely post!

http://i.imgur.com/fn2Aw5C.jpg
 

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A Wee Bit Wicked
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:DWell because I love all animals and I would hate to kill one....I really would like to have a taxidermy bat...but the ones I've found are on EBay and they are out of country.... No guarantee that I would ever get them... I know this probably doesn't really follow the thread.... Sorry..:( But what's up witn no domestic bats??? (I'm hoping for some bats that died of natural causes...)
 

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Creepin' It Real
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Discussion Starter #4
Pumpkin5, your comments are most definitely on-topic. Not all animals used for taxidermy were killed for that purpose, or even killed at all. A lot depends on how much you trust what your supplier says. You were very smart not to purchase animals from out of country without a permit.... we were just talking about that on the Find/Buy thread and it's worth a look there so you can pat yourself on the back.

Most U.S. native animals are protected under state or federal laws, especially bats. There are a few people in Texas (I believe) who can legally kill bats for taxidermy during a defined hunting season but because I couldn't bear to purchase a newly killed bat (vintage doesn't bother me at all) I haven't followed up. My guess is that few taxidermists would risk work with naturally deceased bats out of fear of the rabies virus.
 

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A Wee Bit Wicked
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:DThanks BlueFrog....you cleared it up for me.... Stay away from bats.... They were really cute and I'd love to have one to make a prop from...but I digress....I'll be pure of heart and buy cheap, plastic, gross ones....sniff, sniff....:(
 

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Oh, well then. Um.

Totally unrelated to Hallowen, my Dad's shop is decorated with taxidermy and other "weird" things. So, there's the great horned owl named Edgar, guardian of the wood stash, as well as a piranha, "jackelope", armadillo, I think a pheasant...I don't even know. It's mostly old. Sounds like a collection, but I don't even notice most of it any more. There's a hornet's nest taken from one of our trees too. Not really interested in taxidermy, these are mostly things we've just ended up with somehow. Edgar came from some museum that could not accept it into their collection.

We could've had a black rhino nicknamed Bruce. Another museum piece in need of a home - no clue what happened to it.

For Halloween purposes, we had some deer skulls (not cleaned up, either) until the guy asked for them back. The one made a particularly nice staff...


Again, though...I have no interest in taxidermy. I wouldn't go out an try to acquire this sort of thing on purpose, and definitely not without knowing a reputable source.
 

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Creepin' It Real
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Discussion Starter #8
:DThanks BlueFrog....you cleared it up for me.... Stay away from bats.... They were really cute and I'd love to have one to make a prop from...but I digress....I'll be pure of heart and buy cheap, plastic, gross ones....sniff, sniff....:(
No need to totally refrain from buying bats. There are people who legally import them into the U.S., and there are also a wealth of vintage ones whose purchase wouldn't support killing bats.
 

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Creepin' It Real
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Discussion Starter #9
Here's a taste of my taxidermy critters. Most are vintage, all were bought with haunts in mind although they have yet to see one as I had to cancel last year's Museum of Oddities.

The rook was my fortuitous purchase from an Etsy shop that was closing. Although he came with a very nice base, I decided to perch him on a real coyote skull instead.

The peacock was intended as a companion to my necromancer, who will be sporting many symbols of resurrection and rebirth. I really didn't think through the logistics of displaying a peacock with a full train in a haunt, so odds are he's just going to hang out and supervise my computer activities.

The snow owl is an example of replica taxidermy, which is an art form in itself (and one I should address in the near future) He's looking a bit worse for wear since his beak and a talon fell off and I haven't reglued them. He came from the same home as the peacock. The seller hadn't advertised him at all, and I had just barely enough money to buy him too. They sell for a fortune on eBay and I feel very lucky to have found an affordable one.

Those who have followed my wolf prop build thread will recognize Scar, an old and poorly maintained rug I plan to reanimate as a regular mount, protecting the pile of other wolf pelts who will over time be mounted so that I have an entire pack.

The monocled cobra is an old mount I purchased from eBay. He'll be a companion for my Lucifer when the Seven Deadly Sins return to my haunt, among other "jobs" in my haunts.
 

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I've never used taxidermy in the past, but opted to use it for the Dog Soldiers werewolf we're making this year. The costume designers based their design on a wolf's head, so we did as well. The problem was wolves are an endangered species and the government only issues so many tags for hunters and trappers to take wolves each year, which makes getting wolf products hard and expensive. We were very lucky to score a wolf cape (head and shoulder skin) from a trapper in Alaska for $200. He had accidentally hit the wolf with his truck and killed it, but it still counted as one of his tags and the accident tore up the skin from the shoulders to the hind quarters, so he couldn't sell it as a full pelt or even a decent shoulder mount skin, so no one else wanted it. We just needed the skin from the ears forward, so it was perfect for us.

We paid $300 for a taxidermist to mount the head, and my BIG warning here is do not pay a taxidermist in full no matter what they promise!!! Pay a deposit with the balance on delivery. We were promised a 45-day turnaround that turned into a three-year ordeal, so you want to avoid that.

I strongly suggest every prop maker go on the VanDyke website and request a copy of their catalog. These guys are the best source of glass eyes there is, and nothing makes or breaks a prop with a face than the eyes. People who see my lifesize Gremlins figure never comment on my great paint work, they always comment on the eyes, which I used a set of competition/show-quality Red Fox eyes for the figure. Had I painted the eyes like most folks do, they wouldn't have turned out nearly as nice.

Here's a pic of the wolf head we're using for the werewolf...

 

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Soccer and Lacrosse Dad
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Always wondered what happened to Hedwig after the Harry Potter movies ceased.

Great looking collection.

Here's a taste of my taxidermy critters. Most are vintage, all were bought with haunts in mind although they have yet to see one as I had to cancel last year's Museum of Oddities.

The rook was my fortuitous purchase from an Etsy shop that was closing. Although he came with a very nice base, I decided to perch him on a real coyote skull instead.

The peacock was intended as a companion to my necromancer, who will be sporting many symbols of resurrection and rebirth. I really didn't think through the logistics of displaying a peacock with a full train in a haunt, so odds are he's just going to hang out and supervise my computer activities.

The snow owl is an example of replica taxidermy, which is an art form in itself (and one I should address in the near future) He's looking a bit worse for wear since his beak and a talon fell off and I haven't reglued them. He came from the same home as the peacock. The seller hadn't advertised him at all, and I had just barely enough money to buy him too. They sell for a fortune on eBay and I feel very lucky to have found an affordable one.

Those who have followed my wolf prop build thread will recognize Scar, an old and poorly maintained rug I plan to reanimate as a regular mount, protecting the pile of other wolf pelts who will over time be mounted so that I have an entire pack.

The monocled cobra is an old mount I purchased from eBay. He'll be a companion for my Lucifer when the Seven Deadly Sins return to my haunt, among other "jobs" in my haunts.
 

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wow...the pics here are making me realize I definitely want to keep an eye out for more taxidermy for my halloween collection! beautiful pieces!
 

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Creepin' It Real
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Discussion Starter #14
I've never used taxidermy in the past, but opted to use it for the Dog Soldiers werewolf we're making this year. The costume designers based their design on a wolf's head, so we did as well. The problem was wolves are an endangered species and the government only issues so many tags for hunters and trappers to take wolves each year, which makes getting wolf products hard and expensive. We were very lucky to score a wolf cape (head and shoulder skin) from a trapper in Alaska for $200. He had accidentally hit the wolf with his truck and killed it, but it still counted as one of his tags and the accident tore up the skin from the shoulders to the hind quarters, so he couldn't sell it as a full pelt or even a decent shoulder mount skin, so no one else wanted it. We just needed the skin from the ears forward, so it was perfect for us.

We paid $300 for a taxidermist to mount the head, and my BIG warning here is do not pay a taxidermist in full no matter what they promise!!! Pay a deposit with the balance on delivery. We were promised a 45-day turnaround that turned into a three-year ordeal, so you want to avoid that.

I strongly suggest every prop maker go on the VanDyke website and request a copy of their catalog. These guys are the best source of glass eyes there is, and nothing makes or breaks a prop with a face than the eyes. People who see my lifesize Gremlins figure never comment on my great paint work, they always comment on the eyes, which I used a set of competition/show-quality Red Fox eyes for the figure. Had I painted the eyes like most folks do, they wouldn't have turned out nearly as nice.
Stunning wolf, Bruzilla. I happened across your prop building thread the other day and will be following it eagerly. The dog soldier is very much the mental image I've always had of werewolves, despite having never seen it before.

Three years to mount a head? THREE YEARS?! I've heard quite a few taxidermy commission horror stories from both sides of the equation, but that's quite something. Here's hoping my (were)wolf head that I purchased on eBay will be easy for me to mount. We'll find out soon enough.

I can't agree enough with you about the benefits of glass eyes. Surface painted eyes just never compare no matter how skilled the artist.

wow...the pics here are making me realize I definitely want to keep an eye out for more taxidermy for my halloween collection! beautiful pieces!
Taxidermy has a largely deserved reputation for being tacky, kitschy, and just plain bad - but on the flip side, there are some incredible mounts out there and sometimes people like us get lucky. A few years ago someone on this forum found a fighting rooster mount for $10 at a garage sale that I'd have happily ripped out of his hands :)

And to get your enthusiasm even higher, I'm hoping to snap some pictures of other mounts I have, included a beaded lizard, 6' boa constrictor, and three replica African snakes to show an even wider array of what's out there. All the snakes came from a closed museum and were surprisingly inexpensive, all things considered. I also have a little pale colored rattlesnake I just adore for being... cute. Yes, really, he's cute and I kind of want to smooch him.
 

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Taxidermy has a largely deserved reputation for being tacky, kitschy, and just plain bad - but on the flip side, there are some incredible mounts out there and sometimes people like us get lucky. A few years ago someone on this forum found a fighting rooster mount for $10 at a garage sale that I'd have happily ripped out of his hands :)
haha believe me, tacky and kitschy aren't necessarily bad in my books lol! I love old kitschy finds hahaha
 

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"Jim, you should have this in your Haunted House!" No thanks. It was a very old taxidermy deer head (how old was it?) Nobody had lived in that apartment since Max Smith lived there with his Father. Max was then 93, in the local Nursing Home, he had lived there when he was a teenager!
The deer looked" Frankenstinion", opening up, stitches about to burst!
But here is an actual, serious question: An Ex of mine worked in a museum and said all hairy displays must be quick-frozen at least once every two years to kill the bugs that will be making their home there. Does this apply to taxidermied items as well or is there some taxi- process that modifies this potential bugfarm from happening?
 

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Creepin' It Real
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Discussion Starter #17
It's important to keep an eye on taxidermied critters to watch for signs of bug activity, especially a kind of moth that apparently loves fur and leather. If they start to infest, then the taxidermy should immediately go into the freezer overnight to kill the larvae. I don't know of any private individual who does it as a matter of course.

Here's a thread on Taxidermy.net with some great photos of what to watch out for

Freeze-drying is all the rage for taxidermying small critters these days. I've noticed that the sellers of these items almost universally recommend putting the mounts in the freezer overnight every six months or so. My guess is that they are more prone to insect activity because no scary chemicals (or at least different scary chemicals) are involved in their preparation.
 
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