Several months ago as I was driving my daughter to campus (she takes classes at the local community college where she is dual-enrolled), we observed a squirrel that had been hit by a car. We’ve always had a nature centered focus in our homeschool and thus she has never been squeamish about such things. In fact her immediate response was, “Mom, turn around! I want that squirrel!”
I did as requested and she immediately hopped out, proceeded to carefully pick up the squirrel with the aide of several paper napkins we had in the car, and gently placed it in the trunk. “It was still warm. I have to call Papa. I can’t wait to try to taxidermy it.” Ever the teacher facilitator, I returned home and found a ziplock bag in which to store it and placed it carefully in our spare freezer.
My father is an avid outdoorsman. I grew up with him hunting and trapping – keeping his family provided for even when he was unemployed due to mill closures. To this day, his walls are adorned with taxidermy trophies of his catches – his freezer is filled with wild game.
Her interest and fascination with taxidermy is not a surprise. She has talked it about it for some time and thus she jumped at the opportunity when it presented itself.
Small Game Taxidermy
“There are plenty of books on taxidermy, but none covers small game with the learning and depth of The Complete Guide to Small Game Taxidermy. Drawing on generations of experience, the author covers all aspects of the art. From proper field care and tanning to crafting life-size mounts, this book will help any individual to approach master status.” When I read this description on Amazon, I knew immediately this was the book we needed. Fortunately I was able to find it at our local library. There are multiple chapters – several specific to taxidermy processes (skinning, fleshing, base building, mount care, etc.) and several focused on specific mammal species.
After reading up on the process and conferring with Papa (he had had some experience with taxidermy himself and was thereby able to guide us through the process), we scoured the internet and found several suppliers of taxidermy kits. A kits provides all of the tools and taxidermy supplies that you need to successfully perform a great mount conveniently packaged together. You don’t have to worry about trying to figure out what tools and items you need.
There are many different poses or mounts available. The hardest decision was therefore what position to choose. The size of her specimen however, it measured just 7.5″ from the base of the tail to the head, narrowed the choices considerably.
Taxidermy Step by Step
One of the best tutorials we found was How to Taxidermy a Squirrel (not for the squeamish – I thereby did not embed the video but link to it if you desire to view it). I love that it features three amazing young women. It was filmed on location and supported by The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Girls in STEAM rock!
- Purchase a Mount and Taxidermy Kit (chemicals for preservation, etc.)
- Gather your materials and prepare to skin out the specimen, as instructed in the video and text tutorials.
- Make an incision just below the head on the dorsal side down to the tail.
- Carefully cut between skin tissue and the body downward and toward each leg, gently pulling the hide away from the body.
- Pull the legs back and out of the skin tissue, using your knife as needed.
- Remove the hide from the head and ultimately, the tail. The video linked above does an excellent job detailing how to do this.
- Once the hide has been removed, carefully scrape off any meat tissue that may remain.
- Wash the hide gently in warm water and dish soap to remove blood and residue.
- Put hide into a canister with the dry chemicals (from the kit) and shake it around for about 10 minutes.
- Let it rest in canister for a day or two.
- Test the skin to be certain it fits on the form. Enlarge the recesses for the eyes on the form and make any necessary cuts on the form for a better fit.
- Carefully stretch the hide onto the mount and glue into place. Use pins on the lips temporarily.
- Secure mount to a wooden stand and / or display.
We are not quite finished with our first foray into squirrel taxidermy. We discovered the mount we ordered was a little too large for the hide. We thus need to do a little trimming. I’ll post an update on Facebook and Instagram as soon as she completes her project.
Welcome to The Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month.
There is a theme for each month in 2018. The theme this month is winter birds and nests. We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details and for a giveaway!
The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts! Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.
See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in February:
Squirrel Nutkin small world play from Small Worlds Preschool
Our Foray Into Squirrel Taxidermy from Eva Varga
Nature Walk: Looking for Tracks from Handbook of Nature Study
Arctic Ground Squirrel Lapbook from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
Beaver Habitat Building for Kids from Rule This Roost
Good Reads for Fun on Groundhog Day from The Playful Scholar
Meerkat Post Art Activity from Wind in a Letterbox
Easy Watercolor Squirrel Activity from Table Life Blog
Stellaluna Online Book Club from Hide the Chocolate
WHOOP! – The Nature Book Club Giveaway!
We’re so excited about this month’s freebie.
- Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
- The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
- You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
- By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts.That’s it!
- Let’s party.