Spring bear season is about to get under way, so I wanted to put an informational post about rugs - since that is the most common type of mount people have done with their bear. (at least in Alaska it is)
First of all - as with all taxidermy, you should do your homework and look for a taxidermist who you like. And I don't mean just as a person, although that is really important too. LOL! Remember, taxidermy is art! even rugs!
The head, eyes, lips, nose, ears - should LOOK and FEEL (ears esp) like a bear!
Eyes - Every bear is unique and capable of a multitude of expressions...from having eyes wide open, to relaxed, to mostly shut - there are a LOT of pix on the internet of bears - If you are looking for a particular type of expression - ask your taxidermist. On an open mouth mount, I prefer eyes alert (not wide eyed, but not squinty), but if you are going to add a lot of aggression (wrinkles in the muzzle, etc) then the eyes should be closed down (furrowed) or very alert. They should be good quality glass eyes with appropriate coloration. The taxidermist should also have sculpted the muscles and flesh of the eyelids and eyebrows appropriately.
Nose - some taxidermists utilize artificial noses, some use the bear's real nose - decide what you like and go from there. I prefer the real nose because it does not look like plastic. but if not taken care of correctly during the mounting process, the real nose skin can crack over time. A competent taxidermist should be able to use the bear's actual nose, IMO and make the mounted nose look like a bear nose.
Ears - there are two methods to doing ears in taxidermy - bondo or liners. regardless of which method your taxidermist uses, when you feel the ears they should not be thick or lumpy (like they had a severe reaction to a bee sting) and they should not be drummed (will still feel thick) if a liner was used. They should also sit on the skull correctly, and for the sake of 'art', be symmetrically placed and positioned. I like the ears laid back in an open mouth rug - when bears are aggressive, or in a fight, they tend to lay their ears back quite a lot - sometimes even flat toward the neck. A semi alert look is also good for an open mouth - sort of halfway back - this is a nice way to show off lighter colored ears on brown or grizzly bears. Upright alert ears typically should only be used on closed mouth rugs/mounts.
Mouth - the mouth of an open mouth rug can really set the mount off - or make it look like heck. The finish work on the inside of the mouth should be smooth and uniform. You should NOT see fingerprints or paintbrush marks, or rough spots...Some new forms allow for taxidermists to avoid having to do the finish work on the inside of the mouth. These forms are great because they add a LOT of detail that a taxidermist can't recreate and still earn a living. The mouth should NOT be pepto bismol pink! (or gumball pink)...The colors of bears' outer lips can vary greatly - I have seen bears with almost entirely black/brown lips, with hardly any flesh tone, and I have seen bear's with very pink lips. I don't like the highly pink color because I think it detracts from the mount. But certainly there are many photos of bears with fleshy pink lips and if that is what you want as a customer, then be sure to tell your taxidermist. The inside of the mouth should also not be pepto bismol pink...but a fleshy pink color. The teeth should be clean of overspray paint, and the paint should blend well from one color to another other.
The stretched rug - Yes, there is an art to stretching a rug - you don't just lay the skin out and start nailing or stapling...The body should not be long and skinny...If it is, your taxidermist was trying to get length out the finished rug so he or she could charge your more...OR, he didn't know what the heck he was doing! The legs ought to be stretched for width, not for length - especially at the ankles, but also on up to the forearms and thighs. Otherwise you end up with a rug that looks like the bear had stork legs....Sometimes you see rugs with the front legs forward (diving bear) or the back legs straight back (diving bear). I like the front legs at a ninety degree to the body - the back legs at roughly a 45 to the body. If the hide was skinned symmetrically, the rug will also be symmetrical. A quality taxidermist will repair poorly skinned bears so that the finished product is symmetrical. Also - the overall shape of the rug should be pleasing to the eye, there shouldn't be big flaps sticking out in odd places...
The felt - Typically taxidermists offer two colors of felt to go around the rug. Felt colors are generally the choice of the hunter/customer. I prefer colors that blend with the animals' natural colors or habitat ... Typically brown on the inside, next to the skin, for brown bears and black on the inside for black bear. This helps to 'round out' the rug and add a little size as well..the outer color is generally a lighter tan or some color that matches the highlights of the bear - especially on brown bears...
The backing and hangers - A quality rug will have 10 oz batting to add loft to the rug (except for african skins) and heavy material backing. The backing is generally hand sewn around the entire circumference of the rug with a heavy thread. Hangers should be attached securely at each foot (and tail if the rug is a wolf or such type animal) and a two or three hole strap hanger screwed onto each side of the bottom of the head.
As a final note - the edges, flanks, armpits, and toe pads should all be dyed the appropriate color.
Hope everyone finds this informative! Good luck hunting!