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A Day in the Life: The Wild World of Taxidermy

Tolland resident Kip Jenkins has been running his taxidermy business, Outdoor Adventures, for more than 30 years.

Taxidermist Kip Jenkins, the owner of Outdoor Adventures, takes a lot of pride in his work memorializing animals for his customers.

"You have to have an artist's eye for wildlife," he said.

Jenkins said his life-long love of hunting and the outdoors inspired him to start his business, which he has been running full-time for more than 30 years now.

"I had a deer head mounted, but I didn't like how it was done," Jenkins explained. "So I decided to experiment myself."

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While Jenkins started out with small mammals, Outdoor Adventures, now taxidermies a diverse set of animals, ranging from your common deer, fox, birds and fish, to exotic like grizzlies and zebras, which locals bring back to him to preserve from their adventures abroad.

The only animals Jenkins does not work on are reptiles and domestic animals. 

"The final accomplishment is something that's going to look alive," Jenkins said.

But there's a lot of work that goes into achieving that effect. 

For a deer mount, Jenkins begins by removing the hide of the animal and cutting off the horns. These are the only portions of the deer that are actually used in the mount. 

The hide is sent to a commercial tannery for processing, and Jenkins orders a styrofoam mannequin, a fake nose, eyes, etc. 

When all the pieces are assembled,  the eyes are placed using clay, and the mannequin is shaped or layered with paper mache to get the proper outline.

The hide, which has been soaking, is then sewn onto the mannequin, and Jenkins makes small adjustments while it dries so that it lies properly. He can create two to three deer mounts in a day. 

Finally, the hide is groomed and he airbrushes the face to create the final life-like details.

"It gives me great satisfaction that my customers trust me to take care of their animals," Jenkins said.

Of course, like any job, there are some downsides.

In particular, Jenkins said that he can't stand ticks, which are commonly bustling all over the deer hides he works with. Luckily, he can eliminate most of them by spraying down the hides.

And the pests won't keep Jenkins away from the work he enjoys and has perfected over the years.

"When I first started, I was very limited in what I could get," he said. "But now I think it's an industry that's getting more respect due to the high quality of the work."

Taxidermists must receive licenses to work and cannot work on the bodies of endangered species.

Jenkins can be contacted at 860-872-2381.

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