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Cal Poly Pomona student uses ‘rogue taxidermy’ to make real stuffed animals

Stuffed foxes, raccoons, opossums and lambs are scattered around Kady Rose’s apartment, sometimes decorated with ornate headpieces and adorned with metals and crystals.

But these aren’t the stuffed toys found in many girls’ rooms.

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They’re Rose’s taxidermy creations, which she makes and sells in between classes at Cal Poly Pomona. The 25-year-old animal science major practices a craft known as “rogue taxidermy,” which uses soft materials that make the animals flexible and more life-like.

“I used to think that I would struggle with it a lot too when I first started,” Rose said. “But knowing that I am working to give these creatures a new life, when they would have otherwise been tossed aside and forgotten, makes it all worth it.”

The self-declared animal lover blends her passion for art and biology into her creations, a skill she taught herself.

Unlike traditional taxidermy, Rose’s creations aren’t trophies for those who have hunted the animals. Instead, she uses the remains of animals donated from farms, petting zoos, veterinarians and pet owners whose furry friends have died, and then works with a close friend, who skins and tans the pelts before sending them to her. The animals’ bones are donated to another friend, who creates artwork from the pieces.

Once the skins are ready, her creations begin to take shape.

“I work on the faces first, which requires carving a foam head form to mimic the skull and musculature, which I build upon with clay,” she said. “I then make wire armatures for the legs, stuff the body with Poly-Fil and sew it all up. Once everything is fully dried, a little paint is added, and voila!”

Rose spends nearly all her free time from school making the pieces, completing four to six each month and selling them on her website, reanimatedremains.com. Prices range from $200 to $1,400, and animals decorated with gemstones and precious metals go for up to $3,500. Though the pieces usually aren't intended for specific customers, some do commission unique creations.

Her school studies, including biology, have helped Rose perfect her craft, she said, noting that because she works with both living and dead animals in class, she can more accurately re-create them in her taxidermy pieces.

One of Rose’s most recent projects was a pit bull puppy donated by its owner after a fatal accident. A dog lover and pit bull owner herself, Rose said that creation is personal; she won’t put it up for sale.

She also is working on an Egyptian collection, crafting gold headpieces decorated with red jewelry she will place on the animals.

Though she has been accused of killing the animals she reanimates and some have asked how she can call herself an animal lover, Rose said rogue taxidermy will be a lifelong hobby.

“I don’t see why our love and respect for these creatures have to stop at their death,” she said. “I think they are all precious, dead and alive.”

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