Here at Paxton Gate, we have a deep fascination and respect for the natural world. Part of our philosophy is ensuring that our product offerings are ethically sourced. If you still have questions after reading through the information we’ve provided, please feel free to reach out and we’d be happy to answer!
Animal Bones & Taxidermy
Taxidermy, along with animal skulls and skeletons, are among the many items available online and in our stores. Most of the taxidermy is vintage, antique, or otherwise recycled. By recycling vintage taxidermy, we discourage the sale and procurement of new pieces. We often buy from personal and private estates and sometimes individuals who approach us with pieces they no longer want in their collection. Quite often, we hear from people who have inherited large collections that are just too much for them. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, we’d love to hear from you! Additionally, we occasionally have taxidermy from ranched animals which were stillborn or died from illness or other natural causes. Some ranches raise animals for food and sell their pelts as a byproduct to be tanned and sold as rugs or made into taxidermy or other products. We particularly like this idea of utilizing as much of an animal as possible and support this practice. Some of the smaller pieces we sell are byproducts of roadkill, pest management, and wildlife population control which are done in a sustainable manner that keeps the natural population at a healthy and maintainable level. Finally, taxidermists who take on a commission for which they are not paid are allowed to sell those pieces to recoup those costs. So long as the piece is legal for us to sell, we do occasionally acquire specimens in this manner. We do not support the trade of poached or endangered animals nor cruel ranching practices.
At Paxton Gate we carry a wide variety of insects from different sources, artists and vendors. Ultimately all of the insects are sustainably sourced via ethical means. In most cases, they are either sustainably harvested following strict guidelines or raised on conservation farms. When harvested, insects are typically collected in their native habitats by people indigenous to the same locale. This regulated practice gives local people the means to make an income from the surrounding habitat by keeping it in its natural state, and even in some cases replanting with native, host plants intended to attract particular species. In the end, the effect on insect populations is positive as opposed to the alternative—loss of habitat due to farming, development, and/or pesticides. Many of the larger and “bird-wing” butterflies are ranched by conservationists giving them a nearly 100% survival rate in captivity as opposed to about 10% in the wild. These organizations release half into the wild while the remainder are sold to fund the farm, thereby helping to replenish species in the wild. Our vendors have the licenses and certificates to operate according to the regulations of the locale in which the butterflies are collected, as well as the National Forest and Wildlife Service. Their main focus is to guarantee the sustainable management and preservation of the natural species of our world. There is no commercialization of protected species whose hunting is prohibited according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty.
All of our wet specimens died naturally before being preserved. They are preserved in 70% isopropyl alcohol, not formaldehyde. Many of our specimens come from vet techs with whom we work closely. Specimens such as kittens and puppies were stillborn, miscarried, or died shortly after birth. Many of the snakes and lizards are sourced from breeders and also died naturally. Snakes and lizards lay large clutches of eggs and often only a portion of them actually survive to adulthood.
The bats that we carry in our stores are most often byproducts of wildlife population control programs, pest control, or food byproducts. We know and understand the difficulty of finding bats with clean sourcing and we don’t want to contribute to this despite the bats in question being legal to sell. The only species we carry are listed as “least concern” when following the classification of endangered species. (See reference chart below).
We do carry human bones in our stores, which is entirely legal in California and Oregon (and as of 2022, legal in all states excluding Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee). All of our human bones are retired medical or educational specimens. They are typically anonymous and we can only make guesses about them from information we can gather from their bones or documentation that is sometimes included. Most of the medical/educational specimen material available in the United States originated from India or China before 2008 and therefore, there is a very limited supply. Many of our human bones still have their medical markings, articulations and sourcing stamped on them and quite a few can be traced back to the early 1900’s. Despite it being legal to sell bones in California or Oregon that are not identified as of medical or educational origins, we at Paxton Gate have opted to restrict ourselves in this manner. Finally, we do not carry archaeological resources (bones or otherwise) protected by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
Our sea life vendors take a “hands-on” involvement with their suppliers in Asia and the Indo-Pacific. With this approach they have helped develop more selective, sustainable collecting as well as efficient transport. Working with export management authorities and providing regular and consistent support to local fishermen helps reduce pressure from other more extreme and environmentally detrimental fishing practices.
Seashells, which can be divided into two basic groups–snails/gastropods and clams/bivalves–represent the largest number of species, but also the greatest quantity and volume sold in commercial trade. This should not be surprising when one understands that the majority of shells–as well as virtually all the larger species utilized for commercial and decorative purposes–are by-products of cottage and commercial food fisheries. In other words, regardless of whether the shells are utilized or not, they will continue to be harvested for both local and commercial consumption.
The coral we carry is called stony coral. It is a sustainable, re-harvestable natural resource. Growth rates of some stony corals (various Acropora and Montipora species) can grow up to 12 inches in a year. Our suppliers work with coral farms which cultivate marine fauna and flora in a relocated marine environment. These coral farms play a critical role in repopulating deplenished reefs and provide a refuge for marine wildlife. Coral that dies in these protected areas or is deemed too weak to be transplanted elsewhere are oftentimes harvested and sold to provide funds for the farming operation.