The Last Taxidermist In New York
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The Last Taxidermist In New York

JOHN YOUNGAITIS: You know, me and my father used to talk about ‘What if you could do a person?
Would you do it? Like would you wanna handle a dead person?’ JOHN YOUNGAITIS: Maybe just a head? Or a hand. I mean animals are one thing, I dig animals. But people? I don’t know. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: Welcome to Cypress Hills Taxidermy Studio. COMM: This is John – the last taxidermist in New York. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: I’m the only taxidermist in the five burrows. When I was a kid, there
was one in every burrow. When my father was a kid, there was like four or five in Brooklyn
alone. Over the years taxidermy is just not as big as it used to be. INTERVIEWER: So, how does it make you feel? JOHN YOUNGAITIS: To be the last one, I mean
it’s cool, because I have the monopoly on it. But at the same time, I hate to see the
declining of taxidermy because even here, I don’t get to work my father got. COMM: His collection of stuffed animals is worth over $38,000. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: Black bear would tend to stay away from you, this guy would have you
for lunch. It’s an aggressive kind of bear. So you don’t want to meet him. You have
to go to the Alaska to find him. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: This is a Rhesus monkey. That’s for a guy in the City. He had that
and he wanted me to mount it, so it’s now just a monkey’s head. And this goat is over
100 years old. My father bought this off a museum that went out of business in the
60s. Water or fire would destroy taxidermy, otherwise it goes on and on and on. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: Taxidermy is basically a service. A hunter catches an animal, brings
it to the butcher, gets it back, brings it to me. The process is called mounting. The
animal is taken apart, all the meat is taken out, the skin is tanned and it’s re-built.
Then we got my lion. Everybody takes pictures with this lion. He is like the biggest attraction.
I would sell him for 12,000. Because you can’t even get him. They don’t want them imported
into the United States, so, it’s becoming harder to get them. That’s snake skin. That’s
a reticulated python. That thing is 19 feet long. That’s a tanned skin. I never mounted
it. I just wanted the open skin, just to show like that because it’s cool. He is as wide
as the shop is wide. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: And now we come into the back. This is, as everybody says, where the
magic happens. This is where I do all my work. This is a deer head I did, when you first
build them, they have to dry. So, you cut out the ears. Actually close pins work very
good to hold the ear in shape. And after he dries, up I’ll finish him up. COMM: He could charge from $400 for a deer to $2,000 for a full bear, which could take
him up to a year to finish. JEAN DELAFUENTE: He is the best in the world as far as I’ve seen, yeah. Yeah, I would
bring my work to him all the time. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: Thanks man.
JEAN DELAFUENTE: No one else. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: Taxidermy is the memory of the hunt. You can go in somebody’s house
and look on the wall and say, ‘Oh, that’s a nice deer head’. He will tell you the
day, the weather, the time. It brings back the whole memory of the hunt. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: There’s cruelty. Everything in nature has to be harvested and you got
the deer, you get the 60 pounds of meat out of a deer. So nothing is wasted, so the trophy
is the end result. I realise now it is art because you’ve taken a dead animal and making
it look as close to lifelike as you can. So when you’re done, you look at it sometimes,
you just feel like you nailed it. This animal is just like he should in nature, so that’s
the satisfaction of it. COMM: But it’s not just animals that John has had taxidermy requests about. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: I get calls from people, who want to mount their relatives. Some are
pranks and some are real. Some people think it is legitimate to do. I had this lady call,
and she’s crying hysterically, so I said, ‘It it had to be a pet.’ So she’s saying
her shih tzu, which I thought was shih tzu the dog , she goes, “No, my sister.” I’m
like, ‘What?’ She goes, ‘’ I want my sister preserved!’ I’m like, “Lady,
I can’t do it.” “Please, I’ll pay anything.” I say, ‘First of all, you can’t
go to the morgue, they are not gonna give me your sister’s body. It’s illegal.’ COMM: John may be the last taxidermist in New York, but he doesn’t plan on giving
up that title any time soon. JOHN YOUNGAITIS: My father worked right up till he died – 79 years old. So, yeah, I think
if I can keep doing it, I’ll do it to the end.

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