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ALVA, Okla. (KFOR) – He’s been to lots of different colleges as a student and graduate student, but one of the big reasons Dr. Nicholas Ledbetter settled here stares back at him in this huge room full of taxidermy specimens, a unique natural history collection at Northwestern OSU.

“I thought it was amazing,” he says of the first time he visited, “especially for a university of this size.”

“A lot of these things were collected between 80 and 100-plus years ago.”

It was Biology Professor George Stevens who started collecting specimens in an Oklahoma only recently settled, where golden eagles, bald eagles, even gray wolves could easily be hunted and stuffed for later study.

Ledbetter continues, “Having this breadth of data to compare across species is really valuable.”

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A black footed ferret.

Stevens and his students went to Alaska, New Mexico and even Africa on safari.

By the time they were done, the old student library was filled with specimens, many of them nearly impossible to find, including a rare black footed ferret trapped near Hopeton.

Ledbetter points out another specimen.

“My favorite piece of taxidermy here is this golden eagle in a natural pose, cornering a lamb as prey animal.”

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An eagle descending upon prey.

The collection is the second oldest in the state, and includes oddities too, a 2-headed calf, an African elephant ear and a human skeleton students named Skully found in storage several years ago.

“What’s his story,” asks a museum visitor?

Dr. Ledbetter pleads innocence.

“I don’t really want to dig too far into that one,” he laughs.

In fact, this isn’t our first dive into this vast collection.

Dr. Vernon Powders walked us around in the late 90’s shortly after he re-opened it to the public.

It had been off limits for more than 20 years.


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“It’s really valuable,” Ledbetter reiterates, “again, particularly for the things that are really hard to manipulate and collect now.”

Dr. Ledbetter brings his students here for lab work now, and he still finds himself walking around in awe at a collection impossible to gather in modern times, but frozen in time for anyone to study.

For more information on the NWOSU Museum of Natural History go to the museum’s page on the NWOSU website.