EIGHT months ago Lydia Harper had never even touched a dead animal, let alone prepared, stuffed and mounted one.

But the 22-year-old’s search for a creative career path has now led her to taxidermy.

Lydia, from Gorsley, near Ross-on-Wye, made the switch after studying rural surveying and property management at university.

She read a magazine article about a taxidermy collector and thought “I want my house to look like that”.

“I have always been creative and into quirky things so I started looking at how I’d go about becoming a taxidermist,” she said.

“I went on a few courses in London, and I’ve worked with the Start 2 Great business start-up course through Herefordshire Council.”

Lydia said she was slightly worried that she might be ‘squeamish’ when she first started the course – as taxidermy involves removing the animals’ organs and sewing the skin back up – but said it is “all very clinical and clean”.

She added: “I’ve mainly worked on birds and small mammals like squirrels and rabbits – birds that have fallen from trees and died or other animals I find that have died naturally.

“I don’t often use road-kill as the bodies can be quite damaged, though I have come across a fox in perfect condition which I’ve used.

“A number of people have asked me to do some work for them come shooting season.

“I don’t know if I could work on people’s pets, purely because you have to be so careful not to mess anything up.”

Lydia, who admits her parents found her new job a bit odd at first, is soon off to South Africa to learn how to work with bigger animals such as antelope.