Petzal: A Smile from a Smilodon

One of the many reasons to visit the SCI convention is the taxidermy, which ranges from marvelous to astounding. (As Wayne van Zwoll says, it's worth the price of a plane ticket all by itself.) You just don't see work of such scope, imagination, and artistry anywhere else.

This is a mount of a critter that you can't hunt because it went extinct about 10,000 years ago. Popularly known as the sabretooth tiger, Smilodon evolved into several subspecies, the largest of which grew to 880 pounds, which is some big kitty.

This one evolved because a talented young taxidermist named Brian Geer (who works for Nature's Design Taxidermy in Cody, WY) got hold of a liger pelt. Ligers are tiger/lion crosses; their hides may resemble those of Smilodon, and they're about the right size, so it seemed only natural to create a sabretooth. There are hundreds of Smilodon skeletons to draw from, so it was no trick to get the size, weight, and musculature down. The tusks are cast directly from fossil teeth. This cat is, I believe Smilodon populator, the medium-sized variety that was found in North America, and in a well-fed state he would have gone about 620 pounds.

The critter on which he is about to dine is a species of primitive horse. Brian Geer gave Smilodon a couple of bloodstains and scuffmarks, figuring that if the cat had gotten into it with a horse he would not come through unmarked.

If you have taken a trophy that is not extinct and would like to have it mounted, you can contact naturesdesigntaxidermy.com; 307-527-6053.