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
- Small screwdriver
- Kitchen gloves (optional)
- Hydrogen peroxide
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:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Skulls, cleaned
- 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.