Visitors to Chemin-A-Haut State Park will have the chance to see Louisiana's rich diversity of wildlife up close, thanks to a recent donation by longtime taxidermist Wesley Streeter Sr.
An outdoorsman all his life, Streeter took his first deer when he was nine years old and began doing taxidermy as a hobby in 1948. His hobby grew into a successful business, Streeter Taxidermy north of Bastrop, for close to three decades.
“We mounted all kinds of animals,” he said. “It was the type of the work you kind of had to do on your own, because there were [trade] secrets.”
Streeter said he mounted wildlife from all 50 states, as well as exotic species and museum pieces, during his career. Recently, he chose to donate his personal collection of native Louisiana mounts to Chemin-A-Haut for the public to enjoy.
“This is where I wanted [my collection] to be,” he said.
Some items from the large collection – including a rare white squirrel, giant loggerhead snapping turtle shell, and various game fish – have already been installed in the park office. Park manager Russ Brantley said Streeter's daughter is planning to create plaques with information to go with each mount.
“They're all beautiful pieces,” said Brantley.
Mary Frances Streeter said she and her husband met while both were employed by International Paper Co. Wesley took her on her first hunting trip in the Oak Grove area, and the couple married in 1954. Today, she said, “Our son and daughter both hunt just like we used to do.
“This is his pride and joy,” she said. “He wanted to give his personal collection to the people.”
After coming to see the pieces installed in the park office, the Streeters joined Brantley for a scenic, backwoods tour of Chemin-A-Haut. Able to identify many of the trees by sight, Wesley said that growing up, much of the area was “all mixed timber” like that preserved at the park. He also recalled aspects of the park's history, such as the deer pen maintained by Sanford Harrison, who managed the park from 1949-1969.
Approximately 30 mounts remain to be displayed in carefully selected locations at the park, where they will be safe from damage and direct sunlight.
“We're honored to be able to display this collection,” said Brantley. “That's something people deserve to see.”