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How to Become a Taxidermist

You may be surprised to learn that although most taxidermy involves preserving and mounting parts of actual animals, some specimens are produced using only man-made materials. This is most often done by fishermen who want to release their game fish while still being able to show off their catch as a trophy [Source:].

When creating other mounts, the animal's skin and horns are generally used, but most other tissues and organs are recreated using man-made materials. For example, eyes are made of glass, noses and mouths are sculpted from wax or epoxy [Source:] and the mannequin or "form" of the animal is sculpted from clay, plastic, rubber or polyurethane foam [source: Allen].Therefore if you want to be a taxidermist, you'll need experience in some or all of the following:

  • Anatomy [source: Allen]
  • Carpentry
  • Woodworking
  • Tanning
  • Molding
  • Casting
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Sculpting [Source:]

You can learn about taxidermy from books, videos, an apprenticeship, workshops or training courses, but if you want to be a professional taxidermist and sell your mounts, you'll need to get licensed. Criteria and licensing procedures vary by state, but in general, you'll need to fulfill the following requirements to become a taxidermist.

  • Attend an accredited taxidermy school.
  • Acquire the necessary permits and licenses from your state and/or federal Fish and Wildlife Service or from the National Taxidermists Association (NTA). Remember, certification is by category (mammals, birds, fish or reptiles), and you have to get certified for each category individually. [source: Allen]

You'll need to pay an annual fee to renew your taxidermy permit every year.