He stuffs what they kill

  • Cougar mount by John Stevenson

    John Stevenson
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, Unarmed but dangerous critics close in on hunting.

John Stevenson, who runs Wyoming Taxidermy in Evansville, near Casper, used to mount 500 kills a year. But bad winters have taken a toll on local antelope herds, the number of hunting permits has been reduced and there are fewer kills to process. The essential changes in the business, though, are manmade:

"When I started (31 years ago), there were only two taxidermists in central Wyoming. Today there are 24 licensed, just in the Casper area. Taxidermy used to be seen as a full-time career. It took a long time to learn, through apprenticeship and studying on your own. Nowadays you can take a six-week course, or buy a how-to video, buy some supplies out of a catalog, mount a head or two and call yourself 'in the business.'

"The professionalism isn't there. A lot of people do it as a hobby - plumbers, florists - doing taxidermy on the side ...

"In the old days, you used papier-maché to make the manikin - the form that the hide goes on. Nowadays you use urethane foam ... A lot of taxidermists don't even make their manikins, they purchase them from a supply house, a catalog. You can get an elk in small, medium or large, (looking) left, right, or straight.

"A lot of the (mass-produced manikins) are done by sculptors who are going by photos - they've never seen a live animal or a fresh kill. They don't really know anatomy. They put in too much muscle definition. They try to pump up these animals to the point that the animals have big bulgy rippling muscles. I call it the Charlie Atlas Syndrome. Consequently, I still make my own or remodel manikins that I've ordered.

"Glass eyes have also changed. The process (of mass-producing eyes) has been speeded up, air-brushes are used to paint them. The eyes are designed to be more oval and lifelike, the white of the eye is right in the glass, but the quality isn't what it used to be. Even a novice can tell, once he gets one in his hand. The old, German, hand-blown, hand-painted eyes were much better quality.

"I can't compete with a novice who's charging half the price. The customers are just calling around, price-shopping; unless you can get them into the shop to show them the difference, they just don't know. It's a pretty cut-throat business."

High Country News Classifieds
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • FEATURES DIRECTOR - HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Features Director to join our editorial...
  • GENERAL MANAGER
    The Board of UYWCD seeks a new GM to manage operations & to implement our robust strategic plan. Details at www.upperyampawater.com. EOE
  • IN TUCSON, FOR SALE: A BEAUTIFUL, CLASSIC MID-CENTURY MODERN HOME
    designed by architect David Swanson in 1966. Located a block from Saguaro National Forest, yet minutes to Downtown and the UofA campus, 3706 sqft, 6...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Friends of the San Juans is seeking a new leader guide our efforts to protect and restore the San Juan Islands and the Salish...
  • 80 ACRES
    straddles North Platte Fishery, Wyoming. Legal access 2 miles off 1-80. Call 720-440-7633.
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • OWN A THRIVING MOUNTAIN GUIDE SERVICE.
    Eastern Sierra guide service for sale to person with vision & expertise to take it onwards. Since 1995 with USFS & NPS permits. Ideal for...
  • IMPROVED LOT
    Private road, hillside, views. Well, pad, septic, 99 sq.ft. hut. Dryland permaculture orchard. Wildlife. San Diego--long growing season
  • UNIQUE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
    Profitable off-the-grid business located 2 miles from Glacier National Park. Owner has 6 years operating experience. Seeking investor or partner for business expansion and enhancement....
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...