Rinse each paw under warm water and rub in dish soap to clean the fur of any blood, dirt, or grime.
Dry each paw with a towel as much as possible
(Optional) Blow-dry with a hair dryer to speed up the drying process
Fill the bottom of the container with a thin even layer of salt
Gently place the paws in the container, in a single layer.
Cover completely with salt
If you have a batch of squirrel paws to preserve, repeat steps 5 and 6, layering the paws and salt.
Keep container in a dry place, out of reach of pets or children.
Check the container once per day. If you notice salt clumping up, that is because it is absorbing moisture. If there are too many salt clumps then you may have to refresh the salt by emptying the container and repeating steps 4-7.
After a week, check the container to ensure that paws have completely dried out.
Denatured alcohol, or methylated spirits, is a wonderful compound that has a wide variety of uses including fuel for camping stoves and as a paint stripper in a pinch. But it also serves many uses in the world of squirreling.
As an astringent
Submerging any part of a squirrel’s skin, including the tail, in denatured alcohol will cause the follicles to contract, locking in the squirrel fur.
As a cleanser
Can be used to kill bacteria, fleas, and ticks from squirrel pelt.
As a preservative
You can submerge squirrel pelts, tails, and limbs for a long time and remove them from the liquid for later preservation.
A container long enough to hold your straightened squirrel tail
A squirrel tail
Lots of salt
Cut the tail from the squirrel.
Remove any excess meat attached to the tip of the tailbone.
Prepare a container to dry out the tail by covering the bottom of the container in salt.
Place the tail in the salt.
Pour salt to completely cover the tail.
Place in a dry, warm location for a week, or when tail has completely dried out.
Bones can be sold to Mepps for 16-26 cents each: https://www.mepps.com/squirrel-tail/.
You will need:
1 squirrel tail
Begin by using just your fingers to expose as much of the tailbone as possible.
Peel back a section of the skin of the tail. Using your knife, gently scrape between the skin and bone to coerce the skin off the tailbone. Rotate the tail and repeat until enough bone is exposed to grip with pliers (about 1-2 inches).
Firmly grip the exposed bone in the pliers in your dominant hand. Using your non-dominant hand, grip the base of the exposed tail and pull apart firmly with steady pressure. The tailbone should slip right off.
Discard the tailbone and soak the tail in a solution of 50% water, 50% denatured alcohol for at least 48 hours. This will tighten up the hair follicles on the tailbone ensuring that the hairs cannot be easily pulled out.
Remove from the alcohol solution and rinse thoroughly with running water. Apply shampoo and conditioner as you would your own hair. Towel dry, then blow dry as much as possible.
Lay the tail flat on a dry towel, and the tail should be fully dried and preserved within a week
Note that this process is similar to that of preserving a fox tail:
Most squirrel hunters do not eat the head of the squirrel, but that doesn’t mean it needs to go to waste. Making a skull is a very simple process that will teach you about squirrel biology and is fun for the kids too!
If you haven’t done so already, dispatch the squirrel and remove its head from its body with a sharp knife.
1 or more squirrel heads, removed from body. Skin does not need to be removed prior.
Container or pot large enough to fit all heads.
Stove or sous vide machine
Kitchen gloves (optional)
The process of making skulls consists of four major steps: boiling, cleaning, reassembly, and bleaching.
If you have a sous vide machine:
Vacuum pack the squirrel heads into bags. If you don’t have vacuum bags, place the heads in a Ziploc bag and remove as much air as possible.
Fill the container with water
Set sous vide to the following settings: 160F (71C), 16-24hr
Completely submerge the bag of heads in the water
After the sous vide timer is up, remove the squirrel heads
Without a sous vide machine, boiling can be done over a stovetop:
Fill pot with water, heat to a boil
Place the heads into the pot, ensuring that all heads are completely submerged
Turn down the heat so the water simmers right at boiling temperature
Leave the head(s) in the boiling water for a minimum of 20 minutes, no more than 45 minutes. For especially small heads, I recommend no more than 30 minutes. If you boil a head for too long, the skull may split along its joints.
Using a pair of tongs, take the heads out of the pot and rinse thoroughly in cold water
If the squirrel heads are still hot, we recommend a pair of kitchen gloves for the initial steps.
Peel off the outer skin with your thumbs, rinsing under cold water as necessary.
Carefully peel the muscle away from the bone. If boiled properly, the muscle should easily separate. If this is not the case, return the head to a boil for a few more hours.
The nose cartilage may come off of the skull at this point. This is normal. Save it for later if you wish to reassemble the skull.
Dislocate the bottom jaw from the top jaw. The bottom jaw itself may come apart into two symmetrical pieces. Remove any meat from the bottom jaw and set aside
Insert the screwdriver into the brain cavity through the back of the head, and swish around under cold water to break apart the brain. Do not use heavy force. Shake the skull to dislodge parts of the brain from the cavity.
Insert the screwdriver through the nose, and carve away any remaining soft tissue. Do not use heavy force.
Any remaining soft tissue can be removed by hand, or with the screwdriver.
Reassembling your skull
The skull will come apart in the cleaning process so you may wish to reassemble it.
Skull pieces (upper head, lower jaw halves, nose cartilage pieces)
Styrofoam board, can be bought from an arts&crafts store such as Michaels or JoAnn
Superglue or adhesive
Start by gluing the two jaw halves together:
Dampen one half of the jaw (doesn’t matter which one)
Affix the jaw half to the styrofoam board by its base
Place one drop of super glue on the inside of the other half of the jaw where the incisor tooth meets the bone.
Affix the jaw half to the styrofoam board, while maintaining the correct position for both halves of the jaw
Check for the correct fit by placing the skull on top of the jaw. The molars should line up, and the upper incisors should overlap just in front of the lower incisors. Adjust the lower jaw halves as necessary.
Let sit for 24 hours or as long as indicated by your superglue instructions
Lift the jaw from the styrofoam
If either part of the squirrel’s orbit is missing, it can usually be pieced back together simply by reinserting the dislocated orbit piece into its original location. In some cases you will need super glue to affix the bones together.
You will need to reassemble the nose cartilage, usually this can be done simply by reinserting each half of the nose firmly into its original slot. Some super glue may be needed if too much bone material has fallen out.
Bleaching whitens the squirrel skull, and this step can be skipped if you wish to retain the skull’s natural color. You will need:
A container to submerge the skulls
Place the skulls in the container and pour hydrogen peroxide in the container, covering all skulls. Wait 24 hours. Use tongs to remove and wash hands immediately after removal.