Taxidermy may seem like a gruesome job, but if you look below the surface it's obvious the work brings tranquility to the artists that recreate life.
"I just like making things come back to life," Roy Campbell said while he calmly sliced excess flesh and cartilage off a dried grizzly bear hide.
Campbell has been a taxidermist for the past 30 years. He recently moved here from Montana to work at Fur Canada with president Calvin Kania.
Campbell will spend a total of 40 hours working on the hide before it's turned into a life-like model of a grizzly bear.
Taxidermists spend most of their time with a clean, dry hide. But make no mistake about it, they're not afraid to get their hands dirty.
Once an animal hide comes in - typically from a hunter - Kania and Campbell will clean off the dirt and cut off the fat and meat that's on the skin side of the pelt.
Taxidermists are also tasked with the challenge of cleaning the skull.
"There's two ways to clean a skull, (dermestid) beetles, which is kind of a glorified maggot. They're one of those deals where you need to constantly babysit them. And boiling," Campbell said.
Both methods remove all of the flesh and meat that gets stuck in the pockets and cavities of a skull. The most common method is to slowly boil the skull at a low temperature.
Once the skin is mostly cleaned of its excess fat and flesh the hide will be salted and hung to dry.
"The salt cures the hide and dries it up and it also kills any bacteria," Kania added.
The pelt will hang in the salt room for about one month.
Once it's dry enough it will be rolled up and sent to the tannery.
Once the hide comes back from the tannery, the taxidermist will spend hours fitting the skin to a custom sized Styrofoam mold. The customer determines the pose and facial expression of the animal.
The slightest mistake in the facial expression can ruin the product.
Campbell said he will spend most of his time tweaking the face to perfection.
"The eyes are the window to the soul," Campbell said.
"You have to get the eyes just perfect."
The most common animals brought into Fur Canada are bears and cougars. Every once in awhile the business will be faced a challenge it's not familiar with.
In 2011, Kania was asked to recreate a narwhal for the Qingdao Marine Mammal Museum in Qingdao, China.
It took Kania two years to complete the project and it's his proudest achievement to date.
"We were the first in Canada, if not the world, to successfully process and preserve the real skin of a narwhal."
"Museum curators came and inspected it, you should have seen the crate it went in, that was an endeavour in itself to build."
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