Introduction: How to Skin a Badger
Drive to Burning Man. Hit a badger on the road on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation.
It ran in front of us so fast I didn't know whether to turn left or right. I just yelled really loud and woke Star up. I didn't turn at all. we ran right over it. We pulled over and stopped. I thought the animal would be a mess, but it looked great. We put it in the back of the truck and kept going.
This is the first part of the Badger Trilogy, "Skinning".
It continues with "Badger Stew"
and will finish with "Tan a Badger Hide".
Step 1: Delight the Authorities With a Dead Badger
We joined the line of cars slowly creeping into Black Rock City. A drunk fratboy was walking down the line of cars, asking "Can I hide in your truck?". He wanted to get in without paying for a ticket. Probably it wouldn't work, since he was in clear view of the greeters.
When we got to the front of the line the greeters gave us the welcome, and took a quick look to see if we were smuggling fratboys. "Naked Bob", our greeter, was thrilled about our dead badger. He called over to another greeter. "Hey I think I found something, come tell me what you think." She came over and was delighted to find a dead badger instead of a drunk fratboy. The joy spread to the adjoining vehicles. When we pulled over inside the gates to stretch our legs, people stopped to see the badger.
It was truly a beautiful animal.
Step 2: Set Up the Skinning Workstation
We found Blue-haired-rachel's camp and parked our truck. She was asleep so
we went looking for our pal Victor Brar. He's known for his skill in odd situations. We found him in mere minutes, which is unusual at Burningman.
We went back and hung up the badger by its hind legs so gravity would help us skin it.
Step 3: Start Skinning
Rachel's camp is known for it's leather-clad tattooed roadwarrior looking residents. Hardcore Bay area artists and degenerates. What better place to skin a badger? Passersby stopped and offered advice and assistance, helping pull and cut on the skin. One was a veternarian. Another was a taxidermist who had skinned badgers before. He said he'd put badger fat on his boots and they never leaked again. He suggested tanning the hide with battery acid. We skinned the badger's anus and started on the legs, but before we got any further various zombie goths, steampunk vampires, and hippies came out from the camp and begged us to do our thing somewhere else. They said, "This is the weirdest thing I've ever seen at Burningman" and "We're vegetarians".
Speaking of anus, badgers are really clean animals. I couldn't believe it. We'd run right over this guy, and his butthole didn't smell at all!! We invited all and sundry to smell it, and sure enough, all agreed there was no smell!! Each time I failed to smell it I'd say something like "If I ever get run over and some badger eats me, he's going to have to put up with my stinky butthole."
People would look at the animal and say "that smells", and we'd say, "really? what smell?" and then they'd pay attention and say "oh, you're right! It doesn't smell!"
Step 4: Moving Camp
We were no longer welcome among the Bay area's most degenerate and openminded artists, so we drove over to Victor's camp with the badger hanging off the back of the truck. A throng of joyful normal people surrounded us and beckoned their fellows to bask in the beauty of one of God's perfect creations being skinned.
They said "This is the weirdest think we've seen at burningman! We love it!"
Step 5: Skinning Open Vs. Cased
There was some controversy about the best skinning method. I had mostly skinnned rabbits and squirrels. You do those "cased", which means skin around the anus and extend that cut with slits along the hind legs. Pull out the legs, step on them and then peel the rest of the skin off "like skinning the rabbit". You end up with a fur sock sort of thing with little inside-out leg skins hanging off it. Stretch the skin by shoving a board shaped like a gothic window into it.
The other method, "open". That's used for bigger animals. It starts the same, cutting around the anus and slitting up the hind legs, but then you cut the skin down the belly and out along the front legs to make a skin that lays flat. Then you peel it off around the animal and down the head. Stretch it by nailing it flat to a board or "the back of the barn". Or thongs through holes in the edge to stakes pounded in the ground.
The book "Wildwood Wisdom" has good diagrams of both methods.
Step 6: Skinning and Skinning
And so the shadows lengthened and the sun rose higher. We carefully pulled and cut the skin away from the body. The badger has lots of fat, and it can be tricky to skin it. If you see hair follicles on the inside of the skin you're about to cut through.
The veterinarian warned us that the badger might have rabies, and that you can contract it by getting in contact with the blood, alone. That only one person has ever survived rabies.
We discovered the badger's cause of death in the course of skinning it. It had a snapped spine, cracked ribs, and a broken leg.
At some point, we accidentally poked through the abdominal wall, and a bunch of guts came spilling out. We were really careful not to knife the intestines, which would have ruined the meat.
Step 7: Doing the Hump
Finally the skin was off. The carcass looked pretty grotesque with it's guts hanging out. I still had Digital Underground's hit "The Humpty Dance" stuck in my head. I bounced the carcass around like a marionette while singing the song. "Doing the hump, sexy sexy!" It was an incredible sight. I just about died laughing. My scalp hurt.
Step 8: Ta Daa!
That's it, the badger is skinned! What do you do next?
For now, stretch the skin out as much as possible, and if you can, peg it to a board so that it dries stretched out. Rub it down with a pound of salt to keep the fat from rotting the pelt.
If you're actually at burningman and you don't have any salt, you'll notice that there are no flies or decomposers at all, and the alkali dust gets everywhere to dry out the skin, so it'll dry just fine and not rot. In fact, even the badger will turn into jerky-on-the-bone, and not smell in the least, should you need to wait a few days before cooking it.
Up next, instructables on Badger Stew and Badger Hide Tanning!