An annual highlight in Mrs. Horejsi’s nature studies class is an introduction to the science of taxidermy. In this unit, students get the opportunity to skin and preserve a prime roadkill specimen that has been collected during the school year and subsequently frozen and then thawed prior to working with. Students break into groups of their choosing (with the understanding that someone needs to be comfortable making the first incision and subsequent skinning) and then, they go from there! Depending upon the animal involved, this can take anywhere from 5-8 class periods.
This year students had five different animals to work with. Those animals consisted of three red squirrels, a gray squirrel, and the prime specimen of a red fox. The red fox was the most challenging animal to work with due to its size and his roadkill impact unfortunately. However, the student group lead by Gabby Geers, were definitely up for the challenge! As Gabby noted, “I have a lot of background doing this with my dad and family. I have no issues getting right in there and skinning an animal!”
As a culmination to the unit, Bill Archer from Archer’s Taxidermy came in to discuss the process he uses and how to properly mount a specimen as that is something that the students do not get experience with. His presentation was both engaging and insightful as the students were able to follow the process from start to finish. As Bill mentioned, “Taxidermy is becoming a lost art. I receive far more requests that I can do.”
Overall, it was another successful experience! We shall see what roadkill finds are discovered for next year’s class to embark on! As student Damian Kanzenbach stated, “This activity helped me understand the taxidermy process, especially if I plan to do this in the future. I am thinking this could possibly be a senior seminar project for me in the future too!”