Introduction: Curing Small Animal Pelts, Squirrels Rabbits Etc..

Picture of Curing Small Animal Pelts, Squirrels Rabbits Etc..

To preserve small animal pelts leading to tanning and finishing. In this Instructable I'm using to excellent Fox Squirrels shot Thanksgiving morning. Some pictures may be graphic :
" Sharp knife
" Large flat working surface such as an old work
bench or a sheet of plywood
" Non-iodized salt


This will not make the pelt soft like tanning, only preserve it in a pliable state.

Step 1: Go for the Head

Picture of Go for the Head

If you decided to keep the head on, slowly work back the skin with your knife. Be careful not to cut into the hide or you may cause an unsightly gash in your pelt. As a reference, separate the silver skin from the hide. When you get past the eyes, cut around the check muscles then you can pull the rest off.

Step 2: Go for the Tail

Picture of Go for the Tail

The tail can be tricky, depending on the size of the squirrel (unless its a nice Ohio squirrel). Split the tail as far down as you can, slowly working out the tail bone/muscle as you go. Once you get to a reasonable spot, snap it off.

Step 3: Strech the Hide

Picture of Strech the Hide

Next, use a staple gun to tack the hide down. Try to keep the staples on the very edge of the hide.

Step 4: Salt the Hide to Properly Dry

Picture of Salt the Hide to Properly Dry

Add a good amount of non-iodized salt to the hide. Be sure to liberally salt the edges and any folds in the skin. Work the salt into the head and tail. Any unsalted spot is unprotected. You should repeat this after the first application of salt becomes saturated with moisture, usually in two to three days. The curing lasts about ten to fourteen days. With a smaller animal like this (if you prefer) you can simply tack it down and let it dry if you have properly prepared it (i.e. scrapped, cut off any excess, no folds in skin).

Step 5: Cure the Pelt

Picture of Cure the Pelt

Get a pickle jar and some denatured alcohol. The alcohol preserves the skin and locks in the fur. Mix it 50/50 with water and soak the pelt in it for a day.

Step 6: Finish

Picture of Finish

Wash with a mild detergent and dry (it may take a couple of times to get the alcohol smell out) the pelt then go to your local shoe cobbler (if there is one left) and get some Neatsfoot oil. Its a cow shin extract that will give the skin some pliability. Just work it in but don't use to much to fast. You can use a saddle soap or Mink oil too. Keep working it to make it more pliable.....

That's it, a quick pelt cure. Ive never tried this on a deer but have a hide in the freezer that I plan to give a shot with. Will post results!


Mecoptera5 (author)2017-11-23

Thank you, that would work.

BeccaB00 (author)2016-07-07

Thanks for this! I collect bones and have a colony of dermistid beetles that eat the flesh of roadkill I collect. The beetles will eventually eat the fur, but only when they are desperate and it takes them a really long time. To speed up the process, I've started skinning the animals but I hate to see all of those pelts going to waste. I'm definitely going to try this! :D

Mecoptera5 (author)BeccaB002017-11-22


Was just curious what do you do with the pelts? Among other things I study animal hairs under a microscope. I'm always trying to find a source of animal hairs, especially the rodents. If you don't want the pelts to go to waste I may be able to use them.

becca-boo (author)Mecoptera52017-11-22

I just hold on to the pelts until I find something crafty to do with them. I haven't fed my beetles anything large in a while so I dont have any pelts at the moment. But if you want I can let you know if I do anything large and save the pelt for you.

KalebF3 (author)2017-03-15

A trick my grandpa taught me with the tail is once you get the body free cut the tail at the base then take a fishing hook rigged to a thin piano wire hanging down from a nail and hook the meat and bone of the tail and slowly cut down until it becomes too thin and then you can pull the rest of the tail out pretty easy leaving zero meat and bones and it will be inside out so you can salt the skin thin it easily turns right side in again! Gotta love the hand me down knowledge from the older generations

Run Julle AnneC (author)2017-02-13

My rabbit died and i skinned her before buryin her so that i can keep her skin. She is a minirex and ive always loved their fur. I dunked it into pure 70% isopropyl alcohol. Is that okay? Its fine if it hardens. I just want to make sure it wont rot. I did the alcohol thing with a rabbit's foot and replaced alcohol every 2 days. I left it in the alcohol for a week and it was okay. Will it work the same with rabbit skin and fur?

Bubbajac (author)2017-01-29

Can rubbing alcohol be a substitute?

SiC2 (author)2016-05-09

Anyone done this with a Cat pelt? We have mog with lovely fur and I want to preserve her coat once she pops her clogs. Would be a cool way to remember her me thinks. Any advice on doing this with a kitty would be appreciated. In reality, her fur on her belly is the most interesting, so I am thinking about going in through the back to keep the best looking part in the middle of the pelt. She is quite a malter so I would also appreciate advice on how to stop fur from falling out post skinning process, and have the pelt remain nice and supple.

Chris-Q made it! (author)2015-02-21

Followed your directions up to putting the pelt into the mason jar. Just waiting the requisite 24 hrs for the final result!

Chris-Q (author)Chris-Q2015-02-23

Great results -- I used mink oil since I had it on hand.

JordanC27 (author)Chris-Q2015-10-26

How did you dry them after the alcohol soak? I'm at that point and don't want to leave them wet or ruin them but I assume they just air dry now?

rroberts22 (author)2014-05-29

So can I do this and at a later date tan the hide or is it more of a this or tan. This is my first time skinning a animal andni want to tan it at a later date but just dont want to ruin it.

KylieW1 (author)rroberts222014-11-10

Yep, these are the first few steps to the tanning process. After the alcohol soak, you can rinse it really well in cold water, then dry it and store it or smoke it for a few hours with hardwood smoke like from oak. I'm going to try using tea instead of smoking.

JordanC27 (author)KylieW12015-10-26

After the alcohol soak and cold water rinse, how do you recommend drying them out? Just set them out to dry?

Can I just salt my skin then hang it up on my wall? Or will it decay if I don't put it in alcohol?

no123 (author)2015-03-28

you can remove the tail without cutting it... just use 2 stout sticks at the top of the tail, 1 on either side of the bone,hold the ends together and pull like heck

It may take two people but it works... I've tried it on foxes before.

BTW Thanks for the instructable

czarfucker (author)2015-03-14

im tryna do this with my recently deceased hamster

jesse.henebry (author)2014-12-30

will isopropyl alcohol work at the curing stage... which oil works best for softening the pelt.

stinna2 (author)2012-01-24

I have personally gotten the tails out of gray squirrels by pulling them while holding the skin a few inches up from the tail. usually works well. most times you end up with and inside out tail.

jesse.henebry (author)stinna22014-12-30

when skinning, make a few slices downward at the base of the tail, Not across the tail or tendons will break making it harder to get bone out. Pull the hide away from the hips, put your fingers around the base of the tail, and your other hand holding the tip of the tail, pull hard at the base and the bone will slip out, still attached to spine.

kenhartasd (author)2014-12-02

Can I use rubbing alcohol

jamesbondd (author)2010-12-06

hey there, i was just wondering: my rabbit skins always seem to get really dry and brittle, and they tear quite easily.... do you think putting the dry fur into the alcohol, then putting neats foot oil on it will help, or should i change my curing process?

KylieW1 (author)jamesbondd2014-11-10

Definitely use some sort of oil like neat's foot or lanolin, you will also need to tan the hides with smoke, black tea, or a synthetic tanning solution. Tanning will keep the hide from deteriorating as fast and helps keep bugs and parasites out. Synthetic tans usually come in powder form. I use EZ- TAN, it goes a long way. If the hair is coming out of your hides at all, you can try a product called stop rot, which kills the bacteria responsible and it won't burn you or mess with tanning chemicals.

cemetz (author)jamesbondd2010-12-06

Is your current curing process this Instructable or a different process?

bluepandabear (author)2011-03-23

does it make the pelt flexible and soft or does it make it hard and unflexible? and does it remove the hair?

KylieW1 (author)bluepandabear2014-11-10

To make the hide flexible, you would have to "break" it by pulling it over a corner of a log to soften the fibers in the skin. This should be done while it's drying but not completely dry.

yaspeling (author)2011-08-29

can i inject the animal with formalin instead of skinning it

KylieW1 (author)yaspeling2014-11-10

Not really suggested... Unless you want to go through the trouble of stabilizing it and keep it in a jar forever

tincanz (author)2012-03-28

Does wood ash make a suitable substitute for salt, brain for alcohol, and extensive movement for Neatsfoot oil?

KylieW1 (author)tincanz2014-11-10

Wood ash might cause the fur to slip, one of the mixtures used for removing hair from thicker hides involves ash. You will need some sort of disinfecting agent like battery acid, isopropyl alcohol, or vinegar to kill the bacteria and keep bacteria from affecting the hair follicles. Brain would have to be mixed with warm water (not hot) in equal parts and blended into a paste, and applied AFTER pickling the hide in the vinegar or alcohol. After smearing the brains on and breaking the hide once it dries, you would use smoke to actually tan the hide. You probably wouldn't need the oil to soften it, and too much oil will make the hide greasy.

ZachPosey (author)2009-11-15

you say poor, i say tasty.

kamhunter (author)ZachPosey2014-09-05

im with you zachposey tasty well thats if its cooked right!

tetra28 (author)ZachPosey2014-08-20

true story

MINECRAFT IS AWSOME (author)2014-09-05

squirrels are not a sweet little qute animal their crazy and they taste awsome

rroberts22 (author)2014-05-29

So can I do this and at a later date tan the hide or is it more of a this or tan. This is my first time skinning a animal andni want to tan it at a later date but just dont want to ruin it.

tenacious (author)2014-04-11

por que no te cortai los cocos

lbjmorris (author)2013-12-22

Thankyou for the info. I am an animal lover and personally only take pictures of most wildlife except troublesome rodents. We as a family do eat wild game and raise our own domestic animals for meat. I think the real images are most helpful if you plan on trying this you won't be using a dummy.

bkinsey3 (author)2013-09-18

How many days do you actually salt for? It says could take up to 10-14 days. *This is my first try and I dont want to mess it up too badly* Do I salt until it's moist (& thats takes 2-3 days?) then i repeat until... no more moisture comes out?
BTW thank you for posting this!

jamob (author)2013-09-06

What kind of knife is that?

gkkevin (author)2013-07-23

I'm kevin from china, we mainly import a batch of tanned rabbit fur all around the year. who can supply these animail pelts, please contact me by my email -

beltza (author)2013-06-13

its horrible

misaethewolf (author)2012-05-20

Would this also work for a fox pelt?

tywatters (author)2012-01-14

u get all the flesh and fat off it and salt good for 2/3 day the u can get the brain out of the animal mash it up then add 1/2 cups of water then rub it in it call brain tanning . ever animal has anough brain to tan its on hide beide bufflo

stuff9 (author)2010-03-10

 couldn't you just pull the bone out lengthwise

ducktape.mac (author)stuff92011-11-28

i think that connective tissue would hold on to it. now i have seen a way to skin a squirrel with an air compressor, and maybe you could put some air down in the tail.

kcampain (author)2011-07-16

what else can be used if the neatsfoot oil is not available? I don't usually use saddle soap... would a good lanolin lotion work?

aasher (author)2011-05-05

You cannot leave that deer in the freezer for too long. If you do it will get freezer burned and the hair will fall out and the hide will disintegrate much faster than a fresh hide, even after it has been cured.

mcaliber.50 (author)2011-02-05

how long do you soak it for?

TheEbonyEmoFairy (author)2010-12-18

Hey, would this work for skinning a cat?

great idea man! im gonna start skinnin, all of our cats that get hit

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