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Columnists : Taxidermy School
Last Updated: Aug 6, 2010 - 1:11:39 PM
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When The Game Is Down is Sponsored by Colorado Institute of Taxidermy at or by email at

Spring Cleaning Trophy Mounts
By Anne Vinnola
Jan 14, 2009 - 10:06:18 AM

Spring is on its way and with it comes the thought of fishing vacations and camping trips.  Your trophies from last fall are at the taxidermy studio being prepared to go onto your wall next to the rest of your collection.  This is a good time to look at your other mounts to determine if there are any problems so you can bring the new trophies home to a safe environment. 

There are many things to consider when preserving your hunting memories, but location, temperature and insect control are often overlooked and not taken seriously.

Regular homeowner insurance policies do not cover taxidermy mounts although, you can insure them through Safari Club International but insect damage is not covered so insect control is up to you. 

In choosing the location for your mount make sure it will be protected from children and pets. Pets cause quite a bit of the damage to the mounts brought to us for repair. Please be careful when deciding where to put your bear rug; in addition to making a great potty stop, noses and ear are wonderful rawhide chew toys!  Many young dogs have retrieved low hanging ducks and pheasants then quickly chewed them into a slobbery pile of feathers when no one was looking.

Temperature extremes are very hard on any mount. You need to keep in mind that these are organic art pieces and heat is the most common damage culprit.  Having your mount in direct sunlight for even a short time each day can destroy the leather and hair. When you are figuring out where to put a mount, take into consideration where the sunlight hits that spot several times a day.  If you really need to put the mount in a bright room, see about installing UV-ray filtering film on your windows, or put the shades down each day in that room.

 Placing your elk shoulder mount over your fireplace looks romantic but if heat rising up from the fireplace will be in contact with your mount then you may want to consider another location. Heat registers, swamp coolers and air conditioners are not good to have aimed at your taxidermy work and will hasten their demise.

Storing mounts should also be done with extreme care if you are not able to hang them right away.  When storing mounts, only temperature controlled rooms and spaces are advised.  Putting your mounts into storage units, garages or attics that offer no temperature, insect or pest control is asking for severe damage.  

Carpet beetles, destructive chewers.

Insect and pest control is vital to the long life of taxidermy. Whole museum collections have been damaged by tiny insects.  You need to be vigilant in gently cleaning and vacuuming your mounts regularly.  Carpet Beetles or Dermestids come in a variety of types, but the most common are the Black Carpet Beetle.  The adult is 1/8"to 3/16" long, solid dark brown or black in color.  The larvae is under 1/4" long covered in fine golden brown hair and has a tail of long hair at the end.

This clothes Moth can cause sever damage to your trophies if not eliminated.

Clothes Moths also known as Museum Moths are also large contributors to specimen damage.   Clothes moths are tiny, silvery-beige with narrow fringed hairs.  Clothes moths fly differently than grain moths, don't like light and are rarely actually viewed flying.  They prefer dark corners and storage spaces. 

If you are cleaning around a mount and happen to see insect larvae or tiny pieces of insects you will need to be very diligent in your cleaning process.  Insecticides are not really recommended for mounts, and should be avoided if possible. 

Remember to gently vacuum with a soft brush attachment and then wipe your mount with a soft lightly dampened cloth. Feather dusters work well on birds and fish mounts. Always brush or wipe with the hair or the same direction the feathers lay. Never use harsh chemicals or cleaners such as 409 on your mounts as this will further dry the skin, cause cracks and may remove paint. 

Smoking is very damaging to your mounts and will cause them to discolor and deteriorate at a faster rate.  Cleaning is tougher and needs to be done frequently.  A diluted 10-1 solution of water and Woolite can be gently wiped on your mounts. You may consider an air purifier for your room to help absorb the smoke and odors. 

If you do run into an issue with your mount, be sure to take it to your taxidermist.  If there are any insect suspicions make sure to seal it in a large black bag to prevent insects from escaping into the taxidermy studio. 

Your taxidermist will be able to devise a plan to help you, but doing your part to keep your mounts safe from harm will alleviate and prevent most problems.

Jerry and Anne Vinnola are the owners of the Colorado Institute of Taxidermy Training Inc. and of Big Timber South Taxidermy Studio.  Feel free to contact them with questions regarding taxidermy training or taxidermy work.  1-800-733-6936 by email at

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