Taxidermists mount and reproduce deceased animals or parts of animals such as trophy heads for the purpose of public display and education, such as in a museum or monument, or for other sources of scientific study, or for a private collection.
Taxidermists typically do the following:
- keep accurate notes about an animal’s death
- use hand and power tools to remove the animal’s skin and skull
- make artificial parts like eyes, beaks, and fish scales
- build the interior support frame using wood, metal or plastic
- reconstruct the animal to create a lifelike model
- build a mount or natural backdrop for the display
- keep up to date with local legislation on the use of dead animals.
The following job titles also refer to taxidermist:
Taxidermists with their own shops may have to work long hours, especially when first starting out. They often work with strong chemicals, glues, hand and power tools, and possibly diseased animals. They can sit or stand if working on smaller animals. However, creating larger mammal displays requires more physical work, such as climbing or squatting.
Though the specific type of employer may vary, the environment is very similar. Taxidermists may work between a combination of an office and a laboratory of sorts. They will work with clients in their office to understand their needs, and to perform any research that is necessary. They will then work in a sort of laboratory environment where they handle all of the preparation that is involved with the profession. This is an area that is not usually seen by the outside world, as the preparation methods may be hard for some people to see.
There may be some stress involved in the job working towards client’s expectations. Taxidermists may be required to work longer hours if a certain job depends on it, but generally can balance their career and their personal life quite well.
Though there is no set educational requirement for a taxidermist, there may be a certain expectation. Many in this field hold a minimum of an associate’s degree, but it’s not always necessary. The most important aspect of the educational part of the job is to ensure that they have classes in taxidermy so that they know the proper way to handle this profession. This will be more important than any other requirement in the job, and what most taxidermists will focus on.
There is often ongoing education so that taxidermists may keep up with the latest preparation methods and tools. Though this may not necessarily be a requirement, it may be quite helpful to ensure that they are prepared and the best at what they do.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Taxidermist is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Taxidermist career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to taxidermist.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of taxidermist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of taxidermist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of taxidermist.
- Conservation techniques: The procedures, instruments, techniques, materials and chemicals used in conservation and archiving.
- Animal welfare legislation: The legal boundaries, codes of professional conduct, national and EU regulatory frameworks and legal procedures of working with animals and living organisms, ensuring their welfare and health.
- Physiology of animals: The study of the mechanical, physical, bioelectrical and biochemical functioning of animals, their organs and their cells.
- Animal positions: Possess information on the various positions animals take in a natural environment and in different circumstances. Not only the anatomy and figure of the animal is important, but especially the natural way of standing and moving.
- Anatomy of animals: The study of animal body parts, their structure and dynamic relationships, on a level as demanded by the specific occupation.
- Animal species: The characteristics of different species and breeds of animals (relevant to the occupation).
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of taxidermist.
- Finish animal structure: Finish the animals structure by attaching other parts and accessories to the structure, such as a nose, ears, eyes or tail. For bigger animals, glue also the skin to the structure of the animal.
- Create animal structure: Manufacture the form of the animal and mount the bones to form the animal’s structure using wires, cotton and clay. For a larger animals, use also a mould, metal structure or sculpture to form the animal, and place it in the correct position.
- Skin animals: Skin animals in an appropriate manner considering the end purpose of the skin. Strip off the hide of an animal to prepare for processing the carcass, or to use the skin or fur. Use case skinning for smaller animals, where an incision is made around the feet and the skin stripped off like a sock. If a non-invasive slaughter method like gassing or beating was used on a fur animal, take care to ensure that the animal is dead prior to skinning. Use open skinning for large animals, where an incision is made along the abdomen. Use the required equipment for skinning.
- Clean animal body parts: Clean various body parts of animals for the preparation and tanning of animal skins. Clean body parts such as skin, skeleton, antlers or horns by using cleaning techniques, according to the animal species.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of taxidermist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Human anatomy: The dynamic relationship of human structure and function and the muscosceletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, integumentary and nervous systems; normal and altered anatomy and physiology throughout the human lifespan.
- Applied zoology: The science of applying animal anatomy, physiology, ecology, and behaviour in a particular practical context.
- Legal requirements of ICT products: The international regulations related to the development and use of ICT products.
- Chemistry: The composition, structure, and properties of substances and the processes and transformations that they undergo; the uses of different chemicals and their interactions, production techniques, risk factors, and disposal methods.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of taxidermist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Create scenery display: Create a scenery display that represents the natural environment of the displayed product.
- Provide customers with order information: Provide order information to customers by telephone or e-mail; clearly communicate about price ratings, shipping dates and possible delays.
- Label components: Identify and label the different parts of goods or materials to ensure they are well kept for later use.
- Create base for products: Manufacture the base or pedestal for a product so it can be mounted on top of it so the product can maintain its position and is easier to place.
- Repair stuffed animals: Consult documentation and perform the necessary tasks such as replace parts, repair fur or change the colours, to return the item back to its original condition and maintain its authenticity.
- Create animal records: Create animal records according to industry relevant information and using appropriate record-keeping systems.
- Apply a protective layer: Apply a layer of protective solutions such as permethrine to protect the product from damage such as corrosion, fire or parasites, using a spray gun or paintbrush.
- Use painting techniques: Apply painting techniques such as ‘trompe l’oeil’, ‘faux finishing’ and aging techniques.
- Provide customers with price information: Provide customers with accurate and up-to-date information about charges and price rates.
ISCO group and title
3433 – Gallery, museum and library technicians
- Taxidermist – ESCO
- Taxidermist | Explore careers – National Careers Service
- Taxidermist Job Description – StateUniversity.com
- Taxidermists – Firsthand.co
- Featured image: By Nitelo68 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0