#AgLife: Fair kids – A Squirrely project

#aglife is a County 10 series, brought to you by Bailey’s Pit Stop Travel Centers, that pulls the curtain back on farm and ranch life in Fremont County.

Riverton 8th grader Tanner Townsend has one of the most unique entries at the Fremont County Fair among all the thousands of displays. Tanner was about to show a market hog, but his interest was in the 4H Building where he had taken top honors with a taxidermy mount of a red squirrel.

Tanner Townsend with his market hog {h/t Randy Tucker}

“My grandma’s friend runs a community garden in Sheridan that got overrun with squirrels, so they shot some,” Tanner said. “She kept one in the freezer for me.”

Taxidermy is a challenge with any species, but a red squirrel, with Its small size, and thin skin is one of the most difficult animals to prepare.

Jerry Korrel of Riverton, an accomplished taxidermist, helped Tanner with his project.

Instead of a traditional vegetable-based oil tan, Tanner used a rub-on chemical to tan the squirrel hide.

“He took about two hours to flesh out the hide with a pocket knife,” Jerry said. “You have to remove all the fat, oils, and tissue to leave just the leather.”

Tanner ordered a foam form online, but when it arrived it was too big for the squirrel skin.

“We cut the foam down, then stretched the skin until it fit,” Tanner said. “Jerry was excellent.”

He mounted the squirrel on a rustic piece of wood, and it took first place in 4H and was reserve champion in his division.

Tanner and his brother Hunter, and cousin Isabella Huerta all had market hogs sharing the same pen.

Tanner and Hunter Townsend with their cousin Kaydence Daniels stopped for a moment in the hog barn {h/t Randy Tucker}

In addition to 4H and fair activities, Tanner played football at Riverton Middle School but hockey is his favorite sport.

After high school, he plans to get a business degree and open his own taxidermy shop.

“It’s my dream job to become a taxidermist,” Tanner said. “I’ve always thought taxidermy was cool, restoring something from the past.”

The entire project cost about $65 in materials to complete.

“The hardest part was sewing it up,” Tanner said.

Tanner is the son of Randy and Miranda Townsend.

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