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.

The Art of Dr Seuss: What We Can Learn from Him

We recently had an opportunity to see an exhibit of Dr Seuss’ artwork. The exhibit has been in the area for a while but I purposely timed it so that we would see it on his birthday.  The exhibit was very interesting & informative.  If you aren’t a Seuss fan … I would be willing to bet you might become one after seeing more of his work.

What I liked about this exhibit is that it was laid out similar to a time-line and as you walked through, you were able to get a sense of how his career evolved over time.  In anticipation of attending this exhibit, we had read The Boy on Fairfield Street by Kathleen Krull so we were versed on his advertising career.  I found these two advertisements particularly intriguing. What struck us was how different the times were even 70 years ago.  That people would consider gurgling with chemicals laced with DDT just as people would brush their teeth with Radon in the days of Madam Curie.

The other work that fascinated me was his creative taxidermy sculptures.  The book, The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss features eight of his sculptures and since its publication, an addition nine ‘lost sculptures’ have since been identified.  Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, treasured his taxidermy artworks and found a number of ways to use them in various projects throughout the 1030s and 40s.

Dr Seuss Flying Herring

Flying Herring – Hand-painted cast resin, recast from 1930s original

Dr Seuss Sawfish

Sawfish – Hand-painted cast resin, recast from 1930s original

I have shown two of my favorites here.  In the next week, we will be exploring this topic for fully as I pull out the polymer clays and do a mini-lesson on animal adaptations with the munchkins.  I encourage you to join us … it would be fun to see all the crazy Seuss inspired critters we can create. Please post a link in the comments if you want to play along and I’ll include a link to your post in our follow-up.  🙂

“If you never did, you should.
These things are fun, and fun is good.”
~ Dr. Seuss

Surprisingly, Buddy was very much interested in the life-size sculptures.  Most were cast in bronze but one was in stainless steel.  He asked for his picture taken at each one.  I’ve selected to share The Lorax (Classic Seuss) in honor of the movie that was released this weekend.

Edited 3 March 2017 :: One of the things the exhibit touched upon was that Seuss was kind of a racist. I was recently reminded of this when an article was shared on social media detailing flyers kids made to protest “Dr Seuss Week” at their school.

I admire the gumption of the kids who made these posters. I believe it is important to know this history. Dr. Seuss is such a revered figure in our society, a staple of children’s literature. Schools and libraries across the country honor his work annually.

How do we move away from false heroes and saints and acknowledge people’s faults alongside their accomplishments? We can utilize his work as an opportunity to have a discussion with our students about the history of racism in the U.S. and to humanize Dr. Seus. Our heroes are not infallible. People learn and grow and change for the better.