By Judy Putnam
Nick Saade said he doesn’t kill animals for his projects. Instead he uses road kill, trapped nuisance animals and leftover parts from hunting and fishing trophies.
LANSING – Nick Saade’s latest creative work is a doozy. You might even call it a little nutty.
Saade, owner of Taxidermy by Nick Saade in Lansing, has recreated the gridiron rivalry between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan using 22 stuffed chipmunks with tiny Spartan and Wolverine football helmets.
“MSU is just about to score the winning touchdown,” he explains when asked about his tableau that will soon be completed when outfits for four referees are finished.
UM players look “kind of cool but everybody knows MSU is better — even the chipmunks.”
A full-time taxidermist for 18 years, Saade has more serious work — mounted animal heads and fish — on display at local sporting good stores.
The chipmunks are what he does after work. “Every once in a while we do something cute,” he said.
“I’m going to have as much fun as I possibly can, then sooner or later it will end up for sale.”
The asking price? $1,500.
Each mounted chipmunk takes five to six hours to skin, stuff (using Styrofoam figures) and sew up. Putty and wires are used in the legs to put the chipmunks into realistic passing, throwing, catching and tackling positions.
Saade’s son, Eddie, is a football coach at Sexton High School. He helped plan the layout and plays. Another relative, Jill Cullimore, a dollmaker, is creating referee uniforms.
Saade said he doesn’t kill animals for his projects. Instead he uses road kill, trapped nuisance animals and leftover parts from hunting and fishing trophies.
“You want to watch them dead on the road? Have fun, go for it. If you want to watch them doing something more creative and fun....” he said.
The chipmunks were trapped by several friends who wanted to rid their cabins of the animals. “They are destructive. Like little Tasmanian devils,” Saade said. He put donated chipmunks in the freezer and waited until he got enough to field two teams for his football game.
Other whimsical pieces he’s created include a table of black jack players, complete with lit cigarettes. The players are a raccoon, squirrel, possum and groundhog.
A stuffed upright white-tailed doe holding a cocktail tray is called Doe-riss. He tried to sell it to a restaurant and sporting goods store but “they said it would scare the kids.”
Two black squirrels cross swords in fencing position. (“It must be about a girl,” Saade quips.)
A muskrat sits in a lounge chair complete with a tiny remote control and bear slippers. “He’s having a brewski,” Saade points out.
Saade said his self-taught taxidermy has given him a good living without punching a time clock. Years ago, he worked midnights in food service at Sparrow Hospital. He works in a garage behind his home near the hospital.
“I basically do this because I love to do it, and I don’t like to see any parts of animals wasted,” he said about his more whimsical pieces.
As for the chipmunk football game: “I don’t even care if it sells or not. It’s just a cute thing.”
But if anyone wants the Wolverines to win, “they’re going to have to buy it and change the helmets.” Photos. Video.