Curing Small Animal Pelts, Squirrels Rabbits Etc..

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Introduction: 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 :
Materials:
" Sharp knife
" Large flat working surface such as an old work
bench or a sheet of plywood
" Non-iodized salt

note:

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

Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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

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!

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101 Comments

Thank you, that would work.

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

2 replies

BeccaB00

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.

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.

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

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?

Can rubbing alcohol be a substitute?

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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.

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.

2 replies

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.

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?

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

im tryna do this with my recently deceased hamster

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

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.

1 reply

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.

Can I use rubbing alcohol

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?

1 reply

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.