HAUGHTON — There are big jungle cats, antelope and hundreds of other exotic species in the northwest Louisiana town of Haughton. Touchstone Wildlife and Art Museum shows off hundreds of exotic animals collected over Sam Touchstone’s lifetime.

Most died a natural death, says Lura Touchstone, who, with other relatives, operates the museum created by her late husband, a taxidermist.

“We got most of the animals from zoos when they would lose them, and we’d do taxidermy work on them and plan how they would go in each diorama,” she said. “It took time to do it. A lot of time and money.”

The museum was founded in 1981. “He had always dreamed about having a museum so we decided to just go ahead. We had it built and began putting in the dioramas,” she said.

Sam Touchstone owned Touchstone Taxidermy and invented a preservative sold nationwide to other taxidermists. He traveled to places like Africa, the Amazon, the Arctic Circle and South America.

Some of the animals found in the museum include a 19-foot giraffe, snow leopards, a giant piranha, a gorilla and numerous birds.

Touchstone’s grandson, Sam Touchstone, can remember going to the circus in 1949 with his grandfather and almost witnessing a fight between the big cats. The defeated tiger now sits in the museum.

“When we were leaving we heard the animals fighting. He said, ‘C’mon — the cats are fighting. Let’s go look at them,’” Ben Touchstone said. “When we started to go he said, ‘No, they’re probably just feeding them.’ So we went home and when we got home, one of them had killed this one.”

The two-story museum features hand-painted dioramas which provide a colorful and realistic setting for the animals on display. One of the artists who painted the dioramas is Shreveport wildlife artist Don Alexander.

“We were fortunate to get the artists that we got, Don Alexander, Burtie Welch and Judy Campbell,” Lura said.

Sam Touchstone died in 2002 at the age of 97.

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If you go:

What: Touchstone Wildlife and Art Museum.

When: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday (October-January) and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (February-September). 3386 Highway 80, Haughton.

Admission: $5. Children 5 and younger are free with paid adult.

Information: (318) 949-2323.