How to become a Taxidermist

Taxidermists prepare skins of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish to create life-like 3-D representations for display in museums, or as trophies and memorials. The skin (including fur, feathers or scales) is removed from the specimen, preserved using various methods, and mounted on an artificial frame. Taxidermists in museums also prepare specimens for study, research and collection purposes. They may employ the technique of skeletal assembly to demonstrate the structural and anatomical features of a specimen.

Personal requirements of a Taxidermist

  • Enjoy natural history and animal anatomy
  • Artistic interests such as sculpture, painting and drawing
  • Good observation skills
  • Good dexterity with tools and equipment
  • Woodworking or carpentry skills
  • Patient and careful
  • Attention to detail
  • Good hand–eye coordination

Education & Training for a Taxidermist

You can work as a taxidermist without formal qualifications. You will probably get some informal training on the job in taxidermy studios. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10. Entry to this occupation may be improved if you have qualifications in animal science, art or design. It generally takes about five years to become competent.

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Duties & Tasks of a Taxidermist

Taxidermists may perform the following tasks:

  • take measurements and note features of specimens before mounting
  • reproduce specimens by moulding and casting with a variety of materials including plaster, polymers, plastic, fibreglass and polyurethane foam
  • remove and clean skin and treat with preservatives
  • place skin on a model to reproduce the exact size and shape of the specimen
  • preserve and prepare skeletons through the use of chemical and non-chemical treatment
  • pose small animals and preserve them by freeze-drying
  • prepare native and non-native animals for special exhibits
  • prepare and preserve biological material for museum displays
  • collect and preserve foreground material (plant, soil and leaf litter) for creating natural environments for diorama displays
  • maintain exhibits and specimens.

Working conditions for a Taxidermist

Taxidermists may be employed by museums as preparators or exhibition project officers, who also create museum exhibits, including models and habitat displays.

Employment Opportunities for a Taxidermist

Taxidermists are employed in government departments, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), museums, universities and smaller private commercial studios. Employment opportunities are very limited within Australia, as most museums only have one position for taxidermists. Greater opportunities may exist overseas in countries that have game animals.

Additional Information
In some states and territories, taxidermists may be required to hold a licence, depending on the type of work they are undertaking.
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