Experience the concept of immortality, and the stuff it's made of.
Upon entering the Adirondack Outdoor Company in Lewis, New York, the stiff, glassy-eyed animals adorning the floors and walls can have a startling effect on the first-time customer.
Aside from selling typical outdoor products and services, The Adirondack Outdoor Company, in Lewis, New York, serves as a means for local fishermen and game hunters to preserve their prized bounties.
"The most common animals we mount are deer, bear, and fish, but we basically do everything," says store owner and local taxidermist Steve Koop-Angelica. "It all depends, but we do anywhere from thirty to fifty mounts a year."
When mounting a deer specimen, the animal's muscle structure is duplicated over an armature, which includes the original skeleton, or parts of it.
First, the skin is carefully removed from the specimen and is chemically converted into tanned leather. After a cleansing process, the skin is treated and mounted on a man-made skeleton while the furs or feathers are cleaned.
Next, the skin is glued over the skeleton and adjusted to appear lifelike. The ears, eyes, and mouth require special attention. The eyes are made from glass, the eyelids sculpted from clay, and the soft tissues of the nose and mouth are formed using epoxy or wax. The antlers are the only part of the original animal used in the process. Afterward, the hair is groomed, and the mount is set aside to dry.
After the mount has dried completely, the natural skin color is restored. Synthetic materials, like Celluloid, are often used to reproduce the true color and shape of specimens like reptiles and fish.
Many taxidermists use colored waxes to rebuild
shrunken tissue, while others prefer to use epoxy-sculpting compounds.
While some taxidermists use airbrush paints or tube oil colors to restore
color, others prefer acrylic or latex paints.
There are many different methods for painting
the mounts of different species. In bird taxidermy, the legs, feet,
and bill must be painted while the feathers retain their natural colors.
In mammal taxidermy, the nose and eyes are painted, but the fur requires
no color correction.
Fish preservation is the most difficult form of taxidermy because it requires accurate recreation of the subject's anatomy as well as color restoration. Fish mounting requires taxidermists to paint every square inch of the specimen to make it appear more natural. Fresh fish are molded and cased in fiberglass, reinforced by polyester resin, making it appear more lifelike. Salt water fish are synthetically recreated.
According to Bud Piserchia, the owner of Adirondack Reflections and North Country Taxidermy , ancient Egyptians were the first "top scale" taxidermists. He explains that, aside from the pharaohs, revered animals such as cats and hawks, were also preserved through mummification.
Since then, the art of taxidermy has evolved under the innovations and inventions of pioneers like Carl E. Akeley. Akeley was employed by the American Museum in New York City, where he formulated a new system of mounting specimens by applying the skin to a finely contoured clay model.
Today's taxidermy incorporates many crafts, such as carpentry, woodworking, tanning, molding and casting. Artistic talents, like sculpting, painting and drawing are also imperative.
Works of taxidermy are most commonly displayed in science museums, educational instituitions, businesses, restaurants, and homes. Pedestal mounts are the most popular, and lifelike, form of presentation.