The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has announced it will hold a new taxidermy contest starting next year in hopes not only of rewarding the best wildlife exhibits but also of sparking interest among people who don’t normally experience the wild themselves.
The contest’s aim is to teach people about animals they might never encounter themselves, “perhaps enticing some to get their own ‘hands-on’ experience with these critters,” the department said in a news release Monday. The contest will be held in 2019 and every other year thereafter.
Winners in seven categories must lend their work for display by the department for two years, unless they’d rather donate it.
Winning works will be displayed in the department’s Baton Rouge headquarters lobby, which currently holds displays of wood ducks, a pair of frogs, and a largemouth bass rising up from “water,” and in regional offices.
The lobby displays “have been there for a while. We wanted to get something new and fresh,” said Stephanie Cockerham of the department’s wildlife division.
“We have a lot of great taxidermists in Louisiana. This is a chance for them to show their work,” said Trey Iles, a department spokesman.
Taxidermists put animal skins over frameworks or stuff them – usually in a lifelike pose, though “novelty” mounts put animals in positions imitating human behavior. Natural-looking mounts may be hunting or fishing trophies, museum displays and even pet memorials, although this contest won’t accept domestic animals.
Timothy Daigle, president of the Louisiana Taxidermy Association, said he thinks the contest will spark a lot of interest. The Louisiana Taxidermy Association has nearly 70 registered members, although secretary Christie Richard said there are probably a lot more than that.
Brendan “Bubba” Botts of Gulf State Taxidermy in Campti said the contest sparked his interest.
“I’m five-time Louisiana champion on fish. I’m interested,” Botts said.
A panel of professional wildlife and fisheries biologists, professional artists, professional taxidermists and environmental educators will judge the entries, the department said.
Work will be judged partly on educational impact, so the contest wants only natural poses in settings showing the habitat each animal needs. Novelty taxidermy, such as raccoons rowing boats or squirrels with tiny rifles and orange hunting vests, will be disqualified.
“No frogs playing poker. It has to be a natural setting. We want to use it for educational purposes,” Cockerham said.
Entry categories are big game, upland game birds, waterfowl, game fish, amphibian life, reptile life, and non-game. A non-game animal must be sent with a copy of the permit required to use it in taxidermy.
“Please do not enter a domestic species such as a pet or farm animal,” the rules state.
The first entry deadline is next March 8.
“We wanted to open it up now, give them plenty of time to prepare their entries,” Iles said.
Not all taxidermists were enthusiastic.
“I’m not interested. No,” said Kevin Hynes, whose wood duck won the 1999 World Taxidermy Championship.
“To do all this work and let them have it for two years? I don’t want to sound arrogant or selfish, but it doesn’t benefit me,” he said. “I still got a hundred ducks to mount and duck season opens up in two months.”