Our school received a donation of live mounts of local mammals, ranging from tree squirrels to a coyote. They had been in storage, are quite dusty and need cleaning before display. How can we clean them safely, without damaging the fur? Is there likely to have been any treatment during the prepartion that would be harmful to children (such as arsenic)? Are there any procedures we should follow to keep the specimens in good condition, as they will be put out on display shelves?
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To answer your arsenic question, the age of the mounts would be helpful. As far as cleaning goes, I would hit them with a good cleaning with an air compressor first. Have them examined by an experienced taxidermist in your area to determine the type of preservation used and the necessary cleaning involved. Taxidermy is a visual product and needs a visual examination to really help answer your questions.
Our information is limited because the donations occurred due to a divorce and we aren't in contact with the taxidermist who did the work. The mounts were done over a number of years by an non-professional. We did have another local taxidermist look at the mounts and he recommended that we do gentle vacuuming with the direction of the fur. He pointed out that there is white powder coming from the skin, which he said was used in the tanning process. He did not say it was dangerous, but I remain concerned since there will be elementary school kids in contact with the specimens. Our school just doesn't have a budget for professional cleaning. Any advice you can offer will really be appreciated. Thanks.