Enjoy the Wildlife of the Great Indoors

By Keith Rugg | Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Folks in the Reno area get to experience a unique exposure to the wide outdoors. We have the High Sierra to the west, the Great Basin to the east and miles and miles (and miles and miles!) of the remote American interior to the north and south. It's no big surprise then that both residents and visitors alike tend to share a deep appreciation for nature, from the waterways to the forests to the wildlife.

Photo: National Park Service

But the animals that we like to see aren't always very accessible in their natural environment. For any number of reasons, it can be difficult for the average person to really be in a position to enjoy the wildlife. Zoos and animal preserves are one solution, but caring for the critters can be quite an undertaking. So when people can't go to the animals, there's another concept that conservation groups, educational organizations and others can use to bring animals to the people. That's right, we're talking about the venerable yet relatively under-appreciated art of taxidermy.

Reno Sparks Convention CenterIf you'd like to take a look at how taxidermists manage to capture and re-create a moment in the life of a wild animal, you might consider checking out the Sheep Show at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center this weekend. Reno has played host to the Wild Sheep Foundation Convention and Sporting Expo for decades. The event brings hundreds of exhibitors to the Truckee Meadows each year. These businesses and organizations are eager to share their interest in the world's wild sheep, a group of animals that includes Nevada's own desert bighorns. The foundation's focus is on wildlife management by way of hunting, but you don't have to be a big-game hunter to enjoy the gathering. The show also includes plenty of outdoor gear, art and other conservation-oriented content on tap. And taxidermy – lots and lots of artistically mounted heads and dioramas with stuffed sheep. The show runs January 16 to 18 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

Photo: Reno-Sparks Convention Center Facebook

If the convention scene isn't your cup of tea, there are a few other places around town where you can pop in and renew your appreciation of nature via the preservation and display of various sorts of animals.

The sporting goods chain Scheels opened a Sparks location back in 2008, and in addition to retailing outdoor gear, the site boasts an impressive presentation of wildlife mounts. Keeping in the theme of the Sheep Show, Scheels offers up a number of wild sheep in their collection of native North American wildlife.

On the other side of town, off to the west in the Verdi foothills, Cabela's serves up a display of wildlife exhibits. This location of the sporting goods chain actually predates the Scheels location by about a year, and it's interesting to note how both of these companies, at almost the same time, recognized the Reno area as being a growing market into which they could expand. At this site near the Boomtown complex, there's another lineup of wild sheep (surprise!) and other North American animals as well as a display showcasing the wildlife of Africa.

African wildlife head mountLocated almost halfway between these two newer and large-scale taxidermy collections is an exhibit that is much more old-school and all the more interesting for it. The Wilbur D. May Museum is at the Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, just off N. Sierra Street near the university. As the name indicates, it's a tribute to the life and times of Wilbur May, a department store heir and world traveler who eventually came to call Northern Nevada his home. The collections include hundreds of pieces from his African safaris as well as arts and cultural items from his adventures and explorations around the globe.

Photo: Wilbur D. May Center Facebook

This is just a brief sampling because there are plenty of other Reno-area events and places where a person can enjoy wildlife without having to trek into the wilderness to do so. Whether it's a newer venue or some old classic hole in the wall, let us know your favorite place to spot a stuffed animal. And just so you know, while we love the desert bighorn (being our state animal and all), we're also particularly partial to the majestic jackalope!

About the Author Keith Rugg
R. Keith Rugg has worked on staff for a number of local publications, including Lake Tahoe Action Magazine, the Tahoe Daily Tribune and the Reno Gazette-Journal.