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Marmots of Ill Repute

Douglas man is selling his creation on eBay with a minimum bid of $2,500

Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2006

One lucky eBay auction Web site bidder could be the owner of a 3-foot-tall, 40-pound Alaska hoary marmot installation, courtesy of a Douglas taxidermist's appreciation for visual puns.

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Bob Scherf, owner of Northstar Taxidermy since 1984, spent two months dressing two road-kill marmots in risqué outfits and posed them in front of a red-light love cave. Find a homophone for "hoar" and you get the idea.

The work has created a sensation in Douglas, with friends and neighbors coming over for the past month to take pictures.

Now, Scherf is trying to see whether there's a market for street-walking marmots on the Internet. His son-in-law, Dave Spargo, placed the installation on eBay with a minimum bid of $2,500 and a $75 shipping fee.

"It was just one of those personal things, where I thought it would be kind of cute," Scherf said. "Other people might be appalled. You can qualify it with, 'Well, I hope I don't upset the marmot community.'"

"I was hearing about all this stuff on eBay happening, and I thought I'd push it out there and see what happened," he said. "(The $2,500) leaves me a little bit of money after all that time and material. My wife figures some rich Texan will have to have it."

As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, no rich Texan had bitten, and no bids had been received. The auction ends at 11:15 p.m. Sunday.

"I don't really know if I want to sell it," Scherf said. "I might loan it to one of the shops downtown during the summer for the tourists to see it, because the tourists would love it. They're here to have fun, and this is a fun thing."

Scherf has been thinking about building a hoary marmot installation for a number of years. The project started about 15 months ago, when a friend found a dead male marmot out by Thane and brought it into his shop. Three or four months later, another friend found a smaller marmot out North Douglas Highway.

"It wasn't that torn up," Scherf said. "I cleaned it up, salted it and dried it and had it around for probably a year. It must have been November I thought about working this in for Groundhog's Day (Feb. 2)."

Scherf missed Groundhog Day. He started in January and finished in mid-March.

He and his wife, Nadine, found most of the material for their hand-sewn marmot accessories at JoAnn's Fabrics in Nugget Mall. The 19-inch-tall male marmot is sporting a gold tooth, a leopard-skin-trimmed leather vest and hat, a gold medallion and a pimp-style walking stick. The 15-inch female marmot wears long fake eyelashes, thick lipstick, a pink bracelet, pink beret, pink tassels and pink panties.

"Just making the right clothes for it was kind of difficult," Scherf said. "I wanted it to look nice and finding all the right stuff for the earrings, and the plume of the hat, it took time to do all that.

Scherf constructed the fake-rock cave out of plywood, hardware cloth, sand and a clay compound adhesive. The cave has two 25-watt red blinking bulbs - one on top, and one deep in the burrow. It can be plugged into a regular outlet.

"It's an art piece, and it's got to all blend and fit," Scherf said. "It's just a process of evolution. You keep doing this and that, and finally you get to the point where you can't clutter it anymore."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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