Taxidermy: A Way To Keep From Wasting 'What Nature Had Given Us'

May 9, 2011
Originally published on May 10, 2011 12:33 pm

Some sports and hobbies don't get much coverage in the national media.

Taxidermy and the competitions among its enthusiasts certainly don't.

Today, All Things Considered host Melissa Block talked with Larry Blomquist, editor of Breakthrough magazine ("devoted to the serious wildlife arts") and organizer of the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships, which just wrapped up in St. Charles, Mo.

What is it that attracts Blomquist and others to taxidermy?

"Many, many of us just love to hunt and fish," Blomquist told Melissa. "I started with squirrel hunting. ... When I'd skin my animals to prepare them for the kitchen or give to my mother to cook, I did not want to throw away the skin. I wanted to utilize it. ... Most taxidermists have that instinctive desire to replicate or try to reestablish the beauty of nature."

From those like him, Blomquist said, "we didn't want to waste what nature had given us."

There's much more from their conversation on today's edition of All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. We'll add the as-broadcast version to the top of this post later.

Meanwhile, here's a video from the St. Charles competition.

By the way, there's another taxidermy gathering coming up starting July 19 — the National Taxidermist Association's annual convention in Sioux Falls.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Now something that pushes the boundaries of things we consider on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

LARRY BLOMQUIST: The World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championship.

BLOCK: He says this year there were 484 entries in the show from 21 countries and 48 states.

BLOMQUIST: Every animal that you could imagine was represented here. Entries come in from little, small toads to many of the various reptiles on up to the large mammals. And probably the largest mammal we had here was an Alaskan moose, which was being chased by a pack of wolves.

BLOCK: Well, how did they get that you there in St. Charles, Missouri?

BLOMQUIST: Well, it took them five hours one afternoon just to put the piece back together. It was a show-stopper. You cannot not look at it.

BLOCK: But while the panel of international judges at the taxidermy championship may have not not looked at that entry, they awarded the overall prize to Texan Lowell Shipley for his tropical bird called...

BLOMQUIST: Kill Billed Toucan.

BLOCK: Which Blomquist says was very artistically arranged. Now aside from that overall category, the taxidermy competition featured many subcategories, including the freeze-dried division.

BLOMQUIST: Normally, skin has to be tanned to preserve it before the mount is placed over a mannequin to mount it. But in freeze-dry, they actually utilized the raw skin.

BLOCK: Would there be purists in the taxidermy world who would say freeze- drying is just, it's kind of cheating?

BLOMQUIST: You nailed it. That's why we had to make a division all on its own.

BLOCK: For Larry Blomquist and others, participating in such a competition is not just about the skill required to take a dead animal's body and make it look alive. He says it's all about a love of the natural world.

BLOMQUIST: So most taxidermists have that instinctive desire to replicate or try to re- establish the beauty of nature.

BLOCK: Larry Blomquist, who produced the 2011 World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championship. The event ended this weekend in Saint Charles, Missouri.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.