July 7, 2011

Taxidermist spruces up 2009 mount

It features the real antlers, skulls and hide of two bull moose found frozen in a Maine swamp.

By SOPHIE GOULD Staff Writer

Their massive antlers inextricably intertwined, two bull moose are frozen in time, forever locked in a ferocious brawl.

click image to enlarge

Maine taxidermist Mark Dufresne touches up “The Final Charge,” mounted from the remains of a real-life fatal battle between bull moose. Adella Johnson of New Sweden found two moose carcasses with interlocking antlers frozen in a swamp in spring 2006 and donated them to the state for educational purposes. Now they’re on display and getting a touch-up at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Dufresne sits beside "The Final Charge," on display at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray.

Taxidermist Mark Dufresne of Gray, the exhibit's creator, is cleaning, refurbishing and "touching up" the animals and their habitat for the first time since the mount was unveiled in July 2009.

Titled "The Final Charge," the life-size display re-creates a fatal battle during mating season using real moose antlers, skulls and hide. With the help of Q-tips, paintbrushes and spray bottles, Dufresne brightens up moss and retouches teeth and fur.

In early spring 2006, Adella Johnson of New Sweden found two moose carcasses with interlocked antlers frozen in a swamp and donated them to the state of Maine for educational purposes.

The moose had died of natural causes -- their antlers had become locked together during a fight to show dominance and woo females the previous autumn. Unable to separate their antlers, the moose had eventually perished, likely of fatigue or starvation.

"It was a rare find," said Emily McCabe of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. There is only one other mount of moose with their antlers stuck together in North America -- "Locked Forever," also by Dufresne, owned by the state of New Hampshire.

Maine officials saw the project as an opportunity to make an exhibit that would educate the public about moose behavior in the wild. L.L. Bean sponsored the project, while the wildlife department and Dufresne did the research and 500 hours of construction.

The antlers remain in their original locked position. To make the sparring stances of the moose look authentic, Dufresne first consulted a video from an Alaskan biologist of male moose fighting in the wild. "Research is so important," said Dufresne. "I had to learn about habits, anatomy and habitat."

The mount, which weighs approximately 1,500 pounds, is on display until July 10 at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray. It will then return to its home at L.L. Bean in Freeport, occasionally traveling to fairs or other exhibitions.

Staff Writer Sophie Gould can be contacted at 791-6354 or at:

sgould@pressherald.com

 

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