Squirrel Heads

Some of you may not be comfortable with the topic of this post. It is a humorous post about the use of real animal parts from a taxidermist. If you aren’t interested, please click away to a different post! 🙂

This all started over a year ago, when I walked into a quirky Portland shop and saw mounted squirrel and mouse heads on the wall. They were stuffed and displayed just like a trophy animal. You’ve got your deer head, your mountain goat head, your mouse head… I thought it was totally hilarious. I laughed out loud right there in the shop. I would have purchased one of them, except that they had crazy high price tags of $150-$250 apiece!

My new brother, Tanner, and his family, are all hunters. They take antelope, bear, fish, deer, elk, ducks, geese – they hunt it all and eat it. I get lucky sometimes and they bring me some of the wild meat, which I love. If they kill an animal with a particularly nice look, they will have it professionally mounted by a taxidermist, and then it goes up on a wall in their home. I thought one of those tiny, hilarious mounted squirrel heads would be the perfect gift for any of them, but I was not willing to spend hundreds of dollars.

One day, during what-to-give-for-Christmas thoughts, I typed some search words into Etsy (the DIY marketplace) and found somebody selling honest to goodness stuffed squirrel heads. A pack of four for $25. I couldn’t believe it. I ordered them. I typically only get gifts for their kids, my niece and nephew, but since there would be 4 heads I might as well make one for each of them. Then I went to the local craft store and bought some small wooden plaques that I thought would be a good size, and used stain and finishes I already had on hand to make them look nice. (It’s not a coincidence that they ended up being the same finish as my kitchen cabinets…)

I sanded the boards, then stained them, then coated them with clear finish.
Then I placed them on the fireplace hearth to dry. When dry, I nailed hanging brackets to the backs, so they will be easy to hang on a wall.

The squirrel heads arrived in the mail, and I was tickled beyond reason. I giggled for hours while I got ready to make them into gifts. Racecar became very interested.

The Etsy vendor put an extra Douglas Squirrel head into the bag for me.
I let Racecar knock one around the floor for a while. Since it is a real animal head, she could smell its wildness, and she became rather animated for a geriatric cat. A perfect cat toy!

When I held up a squirrel head to a mounting board, I decided it would not do. The plaque seemed too empty. I wanted to add things, like decoration. My first idea was hats. I went back to Etsy, looking for tiny hats. My idea was to find themed hats to match the personalities of my family members.

Etsy has everything. There were tiny hats. I thought I’d get a black top hat for my niece Bruce, and decorate it like a steampunk hat. I found a top hat with a skull, and tiny clocks and gears for steampunk stuff. And I found a gardening sun hat for my sister-in-law Laurie, and some tiny flowers. And a watering can. And suddenly I was in an Etsy shopping frenzy, buying tiny burgers and a tiny spatula to go with the tiny chef hat, and a tiny fishing pole to go with the tiny fishing hat.

You see? The plaque looks sort of empty, like a canvas waiting for the rest.

As the Etsy orders began arriving in the mail, from crafters of teeny tiny things all over the country, I began collecting the items and imagining how it would all fit together.

Sanding and finishing for the last time, and making piles of squirrel accessories at the back.
Then the gluing began. I had to use different kinds of glues for the different materials I was working with. Here, I stuck a glue tube under the fisherman’s squirrel head to keep it at the right angle while the glue dried….
…because I had a specific idea of how I wanted the fishing hat to fit, so I needed the head to be at an angle.

I glued inside the chef’s hat and the gardening hat, to give them the shape that I liked. The hats are made of felt, so I needed a thick glue. But for the tiny items glued right to the board, I wanted a clear and tough glue, and used superglue for that. I also glued my fingers together while trying to stick teeny tiny items to a small wooden plaque. That was inevitable.

The steampunk squirrel was the first one I worked on because I did the hat first. I had purchased some tiny rings, and I used those to give the squirrel multiple tiny ear piercings, then added a ring to the brim of the hat as well.

The Etsy vendor who sold me the heads sold them as “wonky squirrel heads,” because each one is slightly distorted and missing a nose and mouth. I think this makes them especially funny.

For the Steampunk Squirrel, I found some neat metal pieces at a bead vendor. That vendor was also selling some cool creepy bird skulls and some bats, so naturally I had to get those. They also sold some fire extinguishers that I thought might be needed for the Barbecue Squirrel. I found some fish beads and chicken beads as well. Ah, if only that innocent bead vendor knew what I was doing with her beads.

On Steampunk Squirrel, the keys on the keychain can actually slide around the key ring.
I set the larger pieces first on the Gardener/Chicken Farmer Squirrel, so I could then plan the rest of it.
Oh she turned out just lovely!
I could not believe how legitimately teeny tiny these cooking utensils were when they arrived.

The BBQ Squirrel was the hardest because of the lack of cool tiny things for sale. I really really wanted to add a tiny grill, and I found one. I found two actually, but they were expensive, and also I was afraid they would stick out farther than the head itself, which would ruin the look of the whole plaque. I also found an excellent-looking fat raw steak, all ready to be cooked, for $20, which was outside my budget, though it would have been perfect. Etsy vendors often throw in extras for free, just because that is what they do, and I was delighted with all the special extras. In this one, the candy canes and the Fritos were extra freebies. Remember the earrings from Steampunk Squirrel? I had lots of extra rings, so I built a chain to hold the fire extinguishers, and those will swing around on their chain here.

Fisherman Squirrel has a “Flyfishing” magazine at the top, little bead fish, and bead hooks, a net, and an actual working fishing pole.

I wish I could show you all the fishing rod, which is a mastery of tiny craft work. It actually telescopes. It has real fishing line that really winds around the reel when you turn the crank. I glued a tiny bead fish to the hook at the end of the line, which in this photo is lying across the top of the net.

Those are all the photos I have. I think these turned out marvelous. I admit I was chuckling to myself the entire time I worked on these gifts. I still have a spare squirrel head that I don’t know what to do with. I also have lots of extra metal beads because it’s hard to buy a single tiny bead, so several of the things I bought came in a packet of ten or twenty. Also, I have extra beads that were gifted to me by the Etsy vendors. I have enough stuff to start my own Etsy shop maybe, haha.

Tanner sent me a message when they opened their Christmas gifts. “Laurie was the first to open hers,” he said. “She laughed for quite a while before she showed us.” He says they are thinking about hanging them in the hallway. He also said their dogs agree that they are real squirrel heads.

10 thoughts on “Squirrel Heads

    1. Ha ha ha ha!! Alright then, I will not gift you one of these ever. Maybe I don’t think of it as yuck because I’ve been around mounted animals all my life. I just remembered one extreme story, when Kellen was small and went to daycare, their daycare provider was also a hunting family. Her husband shot a bear and had the entire bear mounted in a lifelike pose, climbing a fake tree stump or something, with fake bushes around it. They both loved it so much they had it prominently displayed in the main playroom of the house, where all the kids played. A real, life-sized bear! It only lasted about six months, after she had problems with a couple of the babies who were terrified. Ha ha ha. Most of the kids thought it was fun though.

  1. I’m sorry but I find the whole thing hilarious! I’m still grinning at your overwhelming creativity on this project. Just a bit gross but high marks for originality and creativity. My mind would have never gone there. I’ll bet the dogs try to climb the wall to get to them. If anyone asks Tanner to describe his sister, he can just show them the mouse heads and say, “enough said?” 🙂 Brilliant.

    1. Oh that is very funny: a way to describe his sister. Well, if the dogs were going to be a problem, they would have already gone after the other animals already mounted on the walls. I think the family must have either figured out a way to keep the dogs away, or the dogs have given up on animal heads on the walls. I’m glad you thought it was funny.

  2. Definitely “weirder than skaditch” ha,ha,ha. Honestly though, I can’t stop thinking about how exactly they get the squirrel heads? I’ve seen some amazing art I’d kill for … but not literally. Your creative touches are nice though!

    1. Bonnie, I was touched by this on the taxidermist’s about me page: “I am a disabled vet and when my service was complete ..I decided to dedicate my life to helping animals. I started doing taxidermy when I saw beautiful creatures laying in the roads or hunters and farmers throwing out so much. I decided to take this “trash” and use it to raise money for rescue animals or to provide spays and neuters to low income families in my community. I have been doing this for many years now and specialize in anything from traditional mounts to rogue style taxidermy.”

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