BANGOR, Maine — Do you have space enough for two full-sized African lions? Too big? Maybe an Austrian red stag would be a better fit.
These exotic animals, and another two dozen just like them, are looking for homes — and they won’t ruin your carpets. Formerly part of the Smithsonian Institution’s vast collection, these animals are long dead but forever preserved thanks to the art of taxidermy.
The Smithsonian donated the animal mounts to Nokomis Regional High School science teacher Howard Whitten for educational purposes in 2004. Since then they’ve been moved from location to location, including libraries, public buildings and schools. For a period of time last year, many of them resided in Nokomis’ upstairs boys bathroom.
In recent months they have been stored at the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor — until Wednesday, when they were moved again.
“I really need to find homes for these critters,” said Whitten.
Students in Whitten’s Museum Sciences-Taxidermy class and a contingent of trucking students from the Tri-County Technical Center converged on the museum Wednesday to pack the 25 or so animals there into a tractor-trailer.
“We had about 12 inches to spare,” said Whitten. “By now I can pack these animals in a semi in my sleep.”
The animals will remain locked inside the trailer for now, but Whitten is hoping businesses, public institutions and maybe private entities will volunteer to display the life-size specimens — which to some are considered nearly priceless. After all, where else can you find a duiker, an animal native to Africa that looks like a cross between a deer, a goat and a rabbit?
“If people have the space and they think they’d like to have one, we’ll do everything we can to make it happen,” said Whitten.
Though these animals have spent most of their lives — or more accurately, their deaths — behind museum glass, they are sturdy enough to be touched.
“These were always put on display where people could never get close or touch them,” said Whitten. “That’s not how we operate. They won’t last forever, but we want people to enjoy them while they’re here.”
Anyone interested in storing or displaying one of the animals should call Whitten at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, 368-4354, for more information.