SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Derick Wenck believes taxidermy is alive and well in South Dakota. 

Wenck, owner of Diggers Taxidermy, is the current president of the South Dakota Taxidermist Association. He said the work taxidermists do is considered an art and not a science. 

“It’s more capturing the memory than anything,” Wenck told KELOLAND News. “Every piece is a different story. It might be a kid’s first fish or grandpa’s biggest fish he ever caught.” 

Every year, the South Dakota Taxidermist Association puts on a showcase of taxidermy work that is judged and recognized. It’s also a way for taxidermists to share techniques and pass along knowledge. 

He added that Sioux Falls hosted a national taxidermy showcase in July at the Sioux Falls convention center. 

Wenck said a majority of his taxidermy work goes for people’s homes or hunting lodges and it’s not just all animals from the Midwest. 

“I did a giraffe not too long ago, a couple of cape buffalo, a zebra,” said Wenck, who added he holds licenses at the federal and state levels for his work. “I do stuff all over the place.” 

You can see some of Wenck’s recent work in the photos below. 

As the city of Sioux Falls continues to figure out what will happen to the Brockhouse collection of taxidermy mounts from the Delbridge Natural History Museum, Wenck said whatever happens next will be expensive. 

“12 years ago, I thought the pieces were not looking very good,” Wenck said. “It’d be nice to see somebody or some group step up and be able to keep them alive, but I do know that whoever does that they’re gonna have to spend a lot of money to bring those mounts back to life.” 

On Tuesday, city officials shared test results on the taxidermy animals in the Delbridge Museum showing levels of arsenic which was a commonly used chemical in taxidermy practice in the 1950s to mid-1970s. City attorney Dave Pfeifle said there’s no acceptable level of risk for arsenic. 

Wenck said some of the chemicals and materials used in older taxidermy likely can’t be purchased over-the-counter nowadays. 

“We don’t use hardly any of that stuff anymore,” Wenck said. “Anything with skin, hair or feathers was never going to last forever.” 

Wenck said there are new plastic replica fish mounts that look like reproductions of fish and those would last a lifetime. He cited humidity, oil from human touch, sunlight and time as factors that deteriorate taxidermy works.