A taxidermist works to preserve the skins of dead animals in a lifelike manner. Some taxidermists work at preserving lifelike representations of wildlife for nature centers or museums. They work in on-site workshops with museum curators and wildlife experts to create informational exhibits. They often work a standard business work week of Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Other taxidermists specialize in freelance work, typically for hunters who wish to preserve the skins of their trophy pieces in a realistic manner. A freelance taxidermist often works in a home workshop and sets his or her own hours. Taxidermy is a hands-on job requiring specialized knowledge and some artistic skill.
The taxidermist preserves animal skins using chemicals through a tanning process. He or she then forms a mold of the animal's body, creating a mannequin with a lifelike pose to which he or she then attaches the preserved skin. The taxidermist uses a variety of tools to make the finished mount as realistic as possible. These include sewing implements, staples, paint, and artificial body parts such as claws and eyes. The final step of the process involves mounting the piece for the client and sometimes providing inscribed plaques or other decorative elements.
Taxidermy can be learned as a hobbyist through self-instruction with videos and books or as an intern, but professional taxidermists usually train at a taxidermy school that provides certification. Alternatively, certification can be gained through the National Taxidermist Association. They use a point-based system of judging completed mounts and offer separate certifications in taxidermy for birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles.