People new to taxidermy in Cody, WY are frequently fascinated with the eyes. As we strive to create realistic trophies, the eyes are an important element. Many of them look so alive it is often assumed we preserve an animal’s eyeballs and reset them. That is far from the case! Here is an overview of how eyes are handled in taxidermy.
The original eyes
Many animal parts are replaced in taxidermy. Teeth, for example, rot and crack, so animals receive artificial teeth when they are preserved. Eyes are the same way. As they are basically like bags of water, they are the first thing to collapse after an animal dies. They are also replaced in the process. This does not change by species; even fish mounts receive artificial eyes.
Artificial eyes are made of glass or acrylic. These materials offer the best degree of authenticity. Once the glass or acrylic is fired, an artist uses enamel paint to create a realistic appearance. There is also a new product on the market called the Liquid Lens, which creates an even more lifelike presentation. At this time, it is limited to deer eyes.
One type does not fit all
Eyes are very diverse in the animal kingdom. It is not just a matter of choosing one set of eyes, buying 1,000 sets and using them for every animal that comes into our studio. We buy and match by species.
Sometimes, we can even get an idea of the original eye color and find a match. Whitetail deer, for example, have different eye coloration based on age, genetics, and habitat. If there is some indication of an animal’s unique eye color, or we know a particular herd possesses that color, we will normally replicate it.
Even if a species is similar, there can still be different eye styles. Brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout all have different eye shapes and eye colors. Turkeys have different eye sizes based on gender and age.
The setting process
You likely have the impression that choosing eyes for your trophy is already an involved process. That is only the beginning as we start to remold your animal’s facial features and set the eyes.
The challenge with setting the artificial eyes arises from the fact that facial muscles and structure are removed. That is what held eyes in place when the animal was alive, and as taxidermists, we now have to recreate that. Once we know how to place the eye, it is time to fine-tune that placement for the expression chosen by the customer. Sometimes, there is a request for a particular alert or relaxed presentation. We also have to make that look realistic.
A failure to set properly means eyes can shift positions as the trophy ages. You may remember a deer or moose head in your grandfather’s den that always seemed to look strangely at you. That happens because older setting processes were not always effective.
At Nature’s Design Taxidermy in Cody, WY, we create natural looking trophies with a combination of knowledge related to art, nature, science and animal behavior. If you want your hunting season to end with a well-done, admirable trophy, call us today to preserve that memory.