New Castle taxidermists mount record bear |

New Castle taxidermists mount record bear

Baron Zahuranec
Rifle Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

NEW CASTLE, Colorado ” Bears, garbage cans and people don’t go together well, and there is one less trouble bear in the valley thanks to a hunter from Pennsylvania.

This wasn’t a yearling by any means, it will be listed among the Boone and Crockett Club black bears.

Late in October of 2006 a female hunter from Pennsylvania shot the black bear somewhere in the Aspen area, taxidermist Mark Gustad of Elk Creek Taxidermy in New Castle said. Gustad has finished the full body mount and will be shipping it to the hunter in a few weeks.

The bear made it into the Boone and Crockett with skull measurements, “close to 22 inches,” Gustad said. The length and width of the skull are added to get the final reading. The world record black bear was killed in Utah in 1975 and measured just under 24 inches.

Gustad estimated that the bear weighed about 600 pounds, and by looking at the teeth determined that it was 8 to 9 years old.

The bear had two tags in its ear from the Division of Wildlife (DOW) for past run-ins with people. The DOW has a three-strike policy on bears but this black bear was killed legally in hunting season. Problem bears that cause trouble a third time are exterminated under the DOW policy.

“Those bears can be troublesome,” Gustad said. “Especially like last year with the acorns and berries not producing all that well. If they don’t have food to eat in the woods, they get used to coming down into town, and that’s when they become a problem. It will only take a time or two for the bears to realize that they can get all the food they want from trash cans and Dumpsters. Once a bear gets into garbage, it is real hard to keep them away. If a bear gets tagged once, there’s a good chance he could get tagged again.”

Gustad has been preparing animals and fish for outdoor-minded people for 29 years, and his son Josh is currently working there, learning the trade. They do about 100 to 150 head mounts and about 20 full body mounts each year. He said they do about 15 to 20 bears each year.

For most mounts the Gustads skin the animal and prep it for tanning. All the flesh is removed from the hides, they’re salted, and then dried. The hide is then off to the tannery, and that can take almost a year to complete, Gustad said. When they get the hide back it needs to be fitted over the appropriate form and then stitched shut. The glass eyes and mouth are fashioned, placed, and painted before the final washing and drying of the whole mount.

“We do more (mule deer) than anything, but there’s a good number of elk in there. We do fish and birds, too,” he added. “All the mounts are different, and the life-size ones are a real challenge. You can get burnt out if you do too many of one kind, and really, the hardest ones are what you do the least of.”

The Boone and Crockett Club recognizes legal kills with bow and arrow, rifles, handguns and other methods. They have records for 38 North American big game species, from Maine moose to Alaskan walrus.

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