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    Finding a home for Coal: Taxidermist preserves rare black deer that died in December

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    The body of Coal, the rare black deer beloved by locals who was found dead in a Moab backyard on Dec. 17, has been mounted on a pedestal by Darryl Powell of Darryl’s Taxidermy in Grand Junction, Colorado.

    Taxidermist Darryl Powell and Coal, a black deer he mounted
    Grand Junction, Colorado taxidermist Darryl Powell poses with Coal, a rare melanistic deer and a favorite of locals, who died in December. Courtesy photo

    All that’s needed now is a home. “We’re just waiting for Moab to open up,” said Powell. “We’re kind of waiting because of COVID.”

    Black deer, or melanistic, are exceedingly rare – rarer than albino or spotted deer – and Powell said it was “an honor” to mount Coal, knowing what the deer meant to so many locals for the three years it lived.

    Powell said there were few signs of the chronic wasting disease that caused Coal’s death. His hide was scraped in places, but that stress was likely caused by barbed wire or perhaps conflict with other bucks.

    Powell has been a taxidermist for more than three decades and has mounted a wide variety of animals, including many for people in Moab. But Coal was the “first and only” black deer he ever preserved. “He was such a rare animal. Albinos are exceedingly rare and so are spotted deer, but melanistic deer are, maybe one in several million.”

    He said the key to Coal’s successful mount was that the body was kept fresh and once it was frozen it wasn’t thawed out and refrozen.

    Locals donated to the cost of mounting Coal, and Powell paid an extra $300 or so to fast-track the tanning process, which otherwise would have taken up to 18 months to complete. “I wanted to give Moab a gift,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of work for people in Moab and I wanted to give something back.”

    Sherri and Clint Costanza led the effort to have Coal mounted and Sherri continues her efforts to find a permanent home for the deer. Those who chipped in include Joshua Stalpes, Darrell Bell, T&H, the Campbells, the Penners, Vince Almeroth, Moab Cowboy Tours, St. Danes Cabins, Kevin Sheets, Stacey Means, Jim Yeager, Merrill and Linda Brady and Canyonlands Auto.

    Sherri said the Moab Information Center doesn’t have the space to exhibit Coal and she’s yet to hear back from the Moab Museum, which is closed. She said another possible landing spot is the Grand County Courthouse.

    According to an informal poll on the Facebook page “Moab’s Melanistic Deer,” the overwhelming preference would be the museum. Interim Executive Director Forrest Rodgers was not immediately available for comment.

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