Our Foray into Squirrel Taxidermy

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.

teen girl with a dead squirrelMy 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!small mammal or squirrel taxidermy kit supplies

  1. Purchase a Mount and Taxidermy Kit (chemicals for preservation, etc.)
  2. Gather your materials and prepare to skin out the specimen, as instructed in the video and text tutorials.
  3. Make an incision just below the head on the dorsal side down to the tail.
  4. Carefully cut between skin tissue and the body downward and toward each leg, gently pulling the hide away from the body.
  5. Pull the legs back and out of the skin tissue, using your knife as needed.
  6. Remove the hide from the head and ultimately, the tail. The video linked above does an excellent job detailing how to do this.
  7. Once the hide has been removed, carefully scrape off any meat tissue that may remain.
  8. Wash the hide gently in warm water and dish soap to remove blood and residue.
  9. Put hide into a canister with the dry chemicals (from the kit) and shake it around for about 10 minutes.
  10. Let it rest in canister for a day or two.
  11. 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.
  12. Carefully stretch the hide onto the mount and glue into place. Use pins on the lips temporarily.
  13. 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.

Until then, you might also enjoy these fun little nature quizzes that feature an Oregon native squirrel: Boy Scout Rank Wildlife Edition and Early Summer Edition.

The Nature Book Club

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

image of a stack of books in the grass with text overlay listing monthly theme

WHOOP! – The Nature Book Club Giveaway!

We’re so excited about this month’s freebie.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Party Rules

  • 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.

Wildlife Biology for Middle School: Develop Skills with Animal Cams

animalbehaviorWildlife Biologists are scientists that observe and study the behaviors of animals. They frequently observe the features of certain wildlife and determine the role these animals have in their specific ecosystems. Many Wildlife Biologists specialize into a particular area of study defined by ecosystem or species. Some of these fields include: Entomology (insects), Ichthyology (fish), Ornithology (birds), or Marine Biology.

Youth interested in learning more about animals and the study of wildlife can learn a great deal from the comfort of their home via a webcam. Though limited in scope, animal cams can provide a glimpse into the lives of animals and are one tool to help develop our understanding of animal behavior.

I have compiled a list of some of my favorite animal cams from around the world. Take time to browse them all or utilize the printables I’ve provided below to develop a more in-depth wildlife biology study on your favorite animal.

ethologyOur Favorite Animal Cams

Birds

Bald Eagles

Location: Decorah, Iowa
Best time to watch: Eggs may begin hatching between March 25 and March 29 based on a 35 to 39 day incubation period.

The Decorah bald eagles nest atop a large white oak tree in a secluded valley. Their eggs hatch roughly 35 days after they are first laid, which means that three eggs within the nest right now are due any time now.

Location: Turtle Bay Eagle Cam (Redding, California)

We became captivated by this breeding pair when we first moved to Redding in 2011. The female Bald eagle has successfully fledged 14 eaglets and in 2015 had 3 youngsters in the nest!  This is not the first time she has done this, as she did the same in 2009 and 2010.  Only 5% of Bald eagles successfully lay and fledge three eaglets. Though this animal cam is currently offline (the eagle pair have moved), their story is fascinating.

Hummingbirds

Location: La Verne, California
Best time to watch: March (chicks are hatching any minute)

Bella the Hummingbird has been nesting for more than 10 years. Her nest is about the size of a golf ball, and her eggs are only about the size of a mint. Every spring she lays eggs and a couple weeks later the world watches new life being born. This year, she last laid her eggs on the 6th and 8th of March. When I checked in with her as I wrote this post, they’d recently hatched.

Great Horned Owls

Location: Montana
When will you see babies? Due in roughly 2-3 weeks.

The Montana owlets are due two or three weeks from now. Since owls are nocturnal, this is a live feed worth checking out later at night when the other animal cams have little or no activity.

Spotted Owls

Location: High Desert Museum (Bend, Oregon)

When we lived in Bend, the spotted owl pair at the High Desert Museum were receiving a lot of media attention. It had previously been believed that Spotted Owls required old growth forest to survive yet here were a rehabilitated pair who had successfully reared several consecutive clutches of chicks. Sadly, I believe the owl cam is presently offline.

Penguins

Location: Aquarium of the Pacific (Long Beach, California)
Best time to watch: All the time.

The above the water cam shows the edge of the rocky beach, where penguins hop in and out of the water. You can watch as they swim and float on the surface. They also have a below the water cam to view the penguins as they dive and dart below the surface.

Mammals

Bears

Location: Katmai National Park, Alaska
Best time to watch: In July when their babies are born.

A mama bear and her three bear cubs is what you’ll get if you tune into the Brooks Falls animal cam, which features big shaggy brown bears catching fish, wading around, and just generally having a good time in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. Since bear cubs are only due in July, this cam currently hosts a continual stream of highlights gathered from several live cams.

Manatees

Location: Blue Spring State Park (Maitland, Florida)
Best time to watch: Winter and early Spring
We first discovered the Save the Manatees Club when we were planning a family holiday to the Florida Keys. Though the manatee season has ended, favorite clips are still accessible. The live cams will resume again next season.

Sea Otters

Location: Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, California)

You can watch sea otters here from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific Time. Daily feeding times are 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. And who knows? Maybe you’ll spot an otter pup somewhere in there.

Sloths

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

This sloth cam, part of Zoo Atlanta, lets you become virtual best friends with two-toed sloth Cocoa, his lady friends Okra and Bonnie, and baby sloth Raisin. Though it’s currently offline, you can still log in at 1:30 pm ET every other Wednesday for sloth chats.

Reindeer

Location: “North Pole”
Best time to watch: Holiday season
Reindeer who aren’t employed by St. Nick live in the colder climates of North America and Europe where they feast on a diet of moss, leaves, and grass. They are sometimes referred to as Caribou in Canada.

Fish

Sea Dragons

Location: Aquarium of the Pacific (Los Beach, California)

Found only in Australian coastal waters, Sea Dragons are bony fish related to seahorses, pipefish, and seamoths.

Invertebrates

Jellyfish

Location: Aquarium of the Pacific (Los Beach, California)

Few things are more calming than watching these serene, colorful jellyfish float their lives away.

Ecosystems

Kelp Forest

Location: Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, California)

Watch this underwater kelp forest cam to see an astonishing array of diverse fish and invertebrates. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a wolf-eel chow down on a squid or some fish.

Coral Reef

Location: National Aquarium (Baltimore, MD)

African Savanna

Mpala Live – Meet the animals that roam Mpala in Kenya’s Laikipia area. Their website also provides field guides, lesson plans, and activities that you can download free to get more out of your viewing.

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For a comprehensive collection of animal webcams, visit Live Animals TV, the world’s largest collection of animal webcams.

wildlifebiologyWildlife Biology Lesson Plans & Printables

I have put together a simplified ethogram or inventory of behaviors and actions exhibited by an animal. The free printable will be available for my newsletter subscribers later this week. Take a moment to subscribe today. It will be available only for a limited time.

Most aquariums, zoos, and wildlife centers around the country have developed activity guides and animal observation lessons. You’ll find curriculum and materials for many of the animal cams shared above at the original host site. Many of these can be modified for use with animal cams as well as during your site visit. Browse their education links to see what you can find.

e·thol·o·gy
noun: ethology
  1. the science of animal behavior.
    • the study of human behavior and social organization from a biological perspective.

The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois provides a wonderful Zoo Observation Data Sheet whereby students use an ethogram-based data sheet to record animal behavior. Thereafter, students use the data they have collected to develop their own animal behavior research project. Their materials can be adapted to wildlife viewing locations around the world.

You may also wish to download this very informative Animal Behavior slide show presentation to become familiar with the range of animal behavior and understand the methods that ethologists use to study animal behavior.