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Taxidermist specializes in European Mounts

By Staff | Dec 10, 2010

Greg Schoneck, Minot, is a taxidermist who raises flesh-eating beetles. He also specializes in European Mounts. He has picked up a few clients from the Rugby area this fall.

Flesh-eating beetles are used to clean skeletons in museums. Schoneck uses them to clean deer heads, as well as other animals, that will be mounted in a special process.

Schoneck got interested in the process through Guy Hanley, curator, Natural Science Department, Minot State University.

A taxidermist friend of Schoneck’s suggested he do research on flesh-eating beetles. Schoneck took his advice and went online to search. He found what he was looking for, nearly in his backyard. It turns out that Minot State University has a colony of flesh-eating beetles.

“I just live two blocks from MSU,” said Schoneck, amazed at his good luck.

He visited with Hanley and learned what he could about the beetles before deciding to try raising some for himself. He has a shop at his home in Minot where he works.

“I have extensive colonies,” said Schoneck.

Extensive colonies of flesh-eating beetles are a positive in this unusual business. The beetles, as their name implies, enjoy eating flesh. They must be kept in hard glass so they don’t climb out of or through their enclosure. They love leather, tanned or not, according to Schoneck. They also like carpet and have been knicknamed “carpet beetles.”

The beetles are very productive and are placed on the dry skull to work.

The larva which do most of the work molt an average 9 times and then transform into the little beetles. Adult beetles lay eggs and in just 3-4 days the creamy white eggs become a tiny hairy pupa that is barely visible. As the larva goes through the stages of molting it becomes a beetle and the cycle begins all over.

“It takes thousands and thousands and thousands of beetles to clean a deer head,” said Schonek. “A deer head can be cleaned in 24-48 hours.”

“We have gone at this full focus, ” said Schonek, speaking about himself and the two boys who help him.

They work on deer, antelope, elk and bear. The bears are usually from Canada.

“We do quite a bit of Canadian and African work,” said Schonek.

He also works on animals from all over North Dakota, North Carolina, California and Florida. The season runs during the fall and the spring.

“Turn around time is approximately 3-4 months,” he said.

In order to prepare a deer, it should be frozen immediately after it is shot. It should be placed in a freezer but if it is freezing cold outside, that will do. The deer should be bagged first to keep it from freeze drying.

Schoneck advises the hunters not to salt anything, use chemical or bug spray. After he skins out the head and removes everything, its best to dry it down. When the beetles finish with their gourmet meal of fan dried head meat, Schoneck has to go to work and degrease the skull.

“If you don’t get the grease out it will break down and the bone will degenerate as well as turn yellow,” said Schoneck.

Peroxide is used to whiten the skull. Don’t use chlorine! It will eat the bone.

The European Mounts are very distinctive looking in comparison to a regular-mounted deer head. (see accompanying photo)

Schonek calls his family business “Dakota Skulls”. This past fall, he added pick up service to different areas like Rugby. He advertised in the Tribune and soon had a few clients. He, also, does work for other taxidermists who prefer to specialize in regular mounts.

“Keeping beetles year around can be a chore,” said Schoneck. “Like me their life revolves around the supper table. If they ain’t fed, they ain’t happy.”

Although keeping the beetles is challenging, Schoneck is interested in the process and the beautiful finished product.

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