What do you do when you have an extra polar bear taking up space in your basement? If you're Mervin Randell of Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., you try to sell it online, of course.
The full-time taekwondo instructor, part-time taxidermist is looking to get rid of an eight-foot, 700-pound (2.4-metre, 317-kilogram) stuffed polar bear and hopes his recent Kijiji ad will help him connect with a collector.
'I'd say it would sell for about $12,000.'
- Mervin Randell
Randell is a self-taught taxidermist. When a friend offered him a bearskin rug — something he had wanted for years — he faced the daunting task of skinning the animal. It was something he had never done before but rather than let the opportunity pass by he sought advice from a reliable source.
"I Googled," said Randell. "Studied it for about 10 minutes and then went on up in the woods and did it."
That developed into a hobby and second job and now his home in central Newfoundland is filled with a variety of wildlife.
"I have a lot of different types of animals in the house," said Randell. "It's a pretty good collection there now. I've bought furs from northern British Columbia — black wolves, wolverines, pine martens and Arctic fox."
Randell said that each animal offers its own challenges, and he admits doing taxidermy on polar bears is a less-than-enjoyable and often messy business.
"There's a lot of washing and degreasing and fleshing. It's an enormous task," he said. "If you had to touch your finger on the fur, just a little touch, you'd smell like seal for two days and you wouldn't be able to wash it off.
"When they get a seal, they get down and roll in it and get the oils all over the fur."
Finding the 'right collector' could take time
This particular polar bear came from Labrador. Randell said he did not hunt the animal himself, but purchased the skin from a hunter there.
"In Labrador, you have to be a resident and someone that lived there all your life in order to get a licence for a polar bear," he said. "They're very strict."
Randell said getting the proper permits to buy and ship animal skins can also be challenging. Even more challenging is finding hunters that know how to skin animals correctly for taxidermy purposes.
"Depending on the way they skin it, it's not going to be able to be mounted," said Randell. "I tell people if they need help to give me a call or I can even come and help them.
"I can walk them through it. I have some pictures I can text or email to people if they want to know how to skin it for a rug or for a full mount."
Randell said Asian markets are the most lucrative when selling exotic animals. But Canadian collectors have shown some interest.
"I've had a few calls on it," he said. "It usually takes a little while to sell it because the right collector or buyer needs to see it.... I'd say it would sell for about $12,000."
In the meantime, the polar bear will remain in Randell's home. He said that's something his family has gotten used to.
"We all hunt.... Everyone in the family has hunted," said Randell. "We each have gotten our own black bears.... They're into it."