Turn Your Hunting Haul Into Art
A local taxidermist gives us the rundown on her trade.
Originally posted in 5280 by Abbey White, December 2016
Pictured above, taxidermist and Colorado native, Lee Duckworth. —Photo by Paul Miller
Hunting season is almost over for the year, but Lee Duckworth’s busy season is still going strong. The 29-year-old Lakewood taxidermist spends much of her time from mid-October to early January stuffing and mounting mammals that range from pronghorns to black bears. Duckworth’s expertise also extends to roadkill and wildlife dioramas (you’ve probably seen some of her restoration work at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science); once, she even created a life-size wolf suit for the CW series The Vampire Diaries. A Colorado native, Duckworth worked as a sculptor after high school. Then, following a visit to a taxidermy shop (she was looking for fur for one of her pieces) that piqued her interest, she enrolled at the Pennsylvania Institute of Taxidermy, the only accredited taxidermy school in the country before it closed this past summer. There, Duckworth mastered skinning, curing, tanning, and sewing hides to pre-made forms known as mannikins, an extensive process that can take as long as eight months. Today she sees her occupation as art—with a lasting purpose. “Taxidermy is a form of historical preservation, not just hanging things up on a wall,” Duckworth says. “I think about it as preserving an animal that people can see for generations.”