Freak Week: Terrifying Taxidermy
Posted On: 10/26/2016 - 12:32pm, Posted By: Emily Imhoff, Collections Manager - Zoology
Welcome back, glad you could join us for the second Zoology segment of Freak Week. Today we have another selection of items from the Zoology Collection – this time it is Terrifying Taxidermy!
When animal skins are preserved for study, two methods are typically used: taxidermy mounts and study skins. Study skins simply consist of the animal’s hide cleaned, dried, and stuffed with cotton - the animal looks like it is stretched out and resting. They can be made quickly and are useful for future research. Taxidermy mounts are preferred for animals that will be on display, as they are preserved in life-like poses to look more natural. They are much more time consuming to make, however.
Our first specimens are two giant flying squirrels (Petaurista sp.). Native to Southeast Asia, these grow to a length of about 16-18 inches - not including the tail, which is about 20 inches long! They are nocturnal, and spend their nights gliding among trees searching for food. They don’t actually have bright yellow eyes when they are alive, their natural eye color is black. These eyes are an artistic license taken by the taxidermist – maybe they ran out of black eyes, or simply didn’t know what color the eyes had been in life. After all, they may have only received the skin of the animal to work with.
Taxidermists often try to recreate accurate scenes from nature, as in the case of these specimens that were mounted together. Here we see a gruesome scene of predation that could occur in our own backyards! A long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) is depicted preparing to dine on an Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) that it has killed. The weasel’s open mouth shows off its sharp teeth, leaving no doubt that this is a predator. You can see how the taxidermist positioned the legs and head of the weasel in a very active pose, while the chipmunk is suitably limp. Like a wildlife painter, the taxidermist must work out how best to pose each part of an animal to make it convincingly lifelike to the viewer.
Keep an eye out for our next zoology freak week installment!