The art of taxidermy

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -- "All I'm doing right here is filling the gap between the nose and the skin," Cody Gould explained.

Gould is putting the finishing touches on this 400-pound black bear.

"No one knows how much work is involved. I mean, right from the skinning process to the finish work, there's tons of work."

Gould is a taxidermist in Maine - a profession he says many know little about.

"The process starts when the hunter shoots it," Gould said. "So when they skin it, if they skin it properly, it makes my job a lot easier."

Once the animal is skinned, Gould sends it off to a tannery in Pennsylvania. The skin is then turned into leather and sent back.

"When I get it back from the tannery, I have to stretch the skin, take measurements and prep the hide," he explained. "So I have to thin the face, the eye lids, the lips, then I order a form what the customer wants and closest to the size of the skin."

The form of the animal is made of foam and has to be a perfect fit for the animal skin.

"Put the skin on, you have to sculpt the eyelids, sculpt the eye buds, and then you let it dry for a couple of weeks after it's mounted," he continued. "And I do finish work on it, so I have to rebuild the eye lids, rebuild the nose and paint any dead skin because when the skin is dead, it loses all its color, so I have to make it look full and life like again."

A process that can take weeks depending on the detail and the animal.

"When you put the skin on the face, it's not just laying it on the face and calling it good," he said. "You have to a line the hair partners and some hair patterns, so I use reference pictures."

Gould opened his business last fall after graduating from taxidermy school. He says he's surprised at how busy he's been, even in the off season.

"Being my first year I didn't even think I'd get a life-size bear. I think I've got four, which it isn't a lot but it's a lot for my first year," Gould said.

A lot of Gould's business comes from out-of-staters who come to Maine to hunt.

"Lot of people get taxidermy work done. One, it's their first animal they shot, a lot of guys will bring me just a little deer but it's their first deer and it means a lot to them and they want to preserve it."

Southern Maine is home to a few in the business, but Gould is one of the few in Northern Maine. He says he's looking forward to seeing what hunters will bring in and what work he'll get to do.