For the last 33 years, Dan Lansford’s Professional Taxidermy Studio has sat on Whitestone Boulevard, tucked behind trees and brush. These days, the beeping and whirring of construction vehicles are audible from the studio, but Lansford still remembers the days when there was no development around him.
His parents raised him on the land where his studio now sits. The property, currently 175 acres, has belonged to his family since 1953, and four generations of his family live on it, where they can hunt, fish and birdwatch.
“It’s about all that’s left of Cedar Park as it used to be,” Lansford said.
Growing up there allowed Lansford’s love of nature to flourish, he said. He began doing taxidermy at a young age, teaching himself through books and pamphlets in high school. He worked for a taxidermist shop in Austin before finally opening his own studio in 1986.
Clients typically bring in the unskinned head of an animal with the hide attached. He then removes the head from the skull, tans the skin and uses sculpting techniques to create a final product. He said in any given year he completes about 500 work orders, which include shoulder mounts of large mammals such as whitetail deer and life-size mounts of animals such as bobcats.
While most of his clients are hunters and fishermen, he has also completed work for the entertainment world. He once completed a two-headed calf for the Museum of the Weird in Austin. Another time, the costume designer for Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete Kills” hired him to create the wolf head Lady Gaga wore in the 2013 movie.
Though he has completed thousands of pieces over the decades, he said each one is unique.
“It’s an art form, but the medium is from the hand of the Creator,” Lansford said. “You’re able to take something and preserve it.”
He said he hopes to preserve his family’s land, too. Though the city has grown up around him, he still thinks the land means too much to him to sell.
“It’s a simple equation: You like the land more than the money, or the money more than the land,” he said. “I still like the land more than the money.”
Professional Taxidermy Studio
2101 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. or by appointment