Northern Natural History

Taxidermist As A Career


About the Work
Taxidermists reconstruct deceased animals, birds, mammals and fish for museums or private individuals. These specimens are usually road casualties or sporting trophies. This is done by removing the animal's skin, tanning or preserving it, and then mounting it onto a sculpted model.
A taxidermist would first study animals in the wild or in captivity so that they can understand the animal's behaviour and ultimately gather information and ideas for their work. This involves some drawing and sketching skills and an understanding of animal anatomy.
Animals are skinned using intricate skinning techniques, and a 'strong constitution' is required. The skins are then 'tanned' to preserve them usually using modern tanning techniques, which involves 'fleshing' the hide. A reasonable degree of strength and stamina is required for the processing of large game skins.

A taxidermist will then sculpt a model using the animal's body as reference. This is done using traditional modelling techniques, employing a wire armature, which is covered in modelling material usually wood wool then finally sculpted with papier-mache and clay.
Some mounts are also prepared using fibreglass moulds and modern polyurethane materials.
Once dry the mounts may need re-colouring of any 'flesh' areas and a good colour vision would be required.
Mounts are often set within 'natural habit' displays, which usually consist of woodland debris being collected and dried, preserved or modelled for use. Artificial items such as rocks, tree trunks etc are also constructed using modern modelling and moulding techniques. Again a good knowledge of an animals living habitat is required.

Taxidermists usually spend their entire day in the workshop. Either working on their own for sometime or working within small groups. In larger firms individuals may be required for specific jobs and these could range from a skinner & tanner, model maker to a painter & finisher.
Knowledge of the tanning industry, animal anatomy or modelling/sculpting techniques may help individuals secure a part time job, which could lead to full time employment.
Health and safety issues within the industry are usually the exposure to preserving/tanning chemicals and possible sensitisation to bird feathers and dust. Most professional firms work from 'technical plants,' and along with museums are aware of these issues.
Entry into the Industry
There are no nationally recognised requirements for entry into a commercial taxidermy firm, however for entry to a 'junior post' in a UK museum 3-5 Standard Grades or the equivalent including English, Maths, Art and Biology are useful.
An already good knowledge of wildlife is an advantage. All training is on-the-job and can be lengthy. For commercial taxidermy firms 'traditional' apprenticeships are run and these are usually from three to five years. Some training may be longer.

It is helpful to have the Required, Recommended or Useful Subjects, Core Skills and Personal Qualities listed in the following sections.
Applicants should have good eyesight and normal colour vision. They should not be allergic to dust, hair or feathers.
Employers welcome applications from males and females, people from all ethnic groups and people with disabilities.
Required, Recommended or Useful Subjects
The subjects required by employers, museums and universities vary. However, the following subjects within the National Qualifications framework are relevant:
English and/or Communication
Art and Design
Craft and Design
Core Skills
These five core skills are needed in all jobs and are also useful in your personal life.
Use speaking and listening skills when responding to enquiries from customers or instruction for mounting specimen requirements. Use written skills to produce log book records (a requirement for the licensing of all taxidermists).
Information Technology
P.C. knowledge for use in the workshop when completing/updating work rotas or specimen stage completion reports. Use word processing packages to write up computerised log book records.
Use number skills to take measurements of specimens. Calculate quantities of materials required or for the correct mixing of preservative chemicals.
Problem Solving
Analyse the task to be undertaken, for example to create a coastal display for a museum using specimens of cliff dwelling or wading birds. Plan how best it can be completed and adapt methods, if necessary.
Working with Others
Work with others when necessary or as part of a team and take responsibility for your own work.
Personal Qualities
Interest in natural history and wildlife
Artistic skill
Manual dexterity and fitness
Strong constitution (stomach)
Ability to work alone
Eye for detail
Career Development
The taxidermy industry has had something of a revival in the last twenty years or so. However full time employment possibilities remain few with a large number of applicants seeking positions.
Some employment is available in the larger commercial UK firms, sometimes even involving marketing or management. Also within some UK museums or universities, usually dealing with the conservation of natural history collections, working along side other conservators.
Many applicants seek work within Europe, Africa or the USA. The USA and Africa having a large sport hunting population.
Northern Natural history
Greenhill, BRORA
Sutherland. KW9 6LU
Tel: 01408 621500
Scottish Careers Service 2003


Northern Natural History Taxidermists Scotland



Business Hours: Monday - Friday 8.30am - 5pm GMT
E-mail: taxidermy @ - Telephone 24hr Answer phone: 01408 621500 Int'l +44 1408 621500
Northern Natural History - Greenhill - BRORA - Sutherland - KW9 6LU - Scotland - United Kingdom

Text, images & layout Copyright © Northern Natural History 1997 All Rights Reserved