How to Skin and Clean a Dead Snake

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Introduction: How to Skin and Clean a Dead Snake

So you've got a dead snake- now what?

Learn a useful skill, and leverage roadkill for fun and profit.

A companion to How to Cook a Snake.

Step 1: Acquire Snake

This is probably going to be the hard part.

Snakes do a fine job keeping the world free of unnecessary rodents; don't kill them unless absolutely necessary! That said, if you do kill a snake, or find one dead, don't let it go to waste.

The snake in this Instructable was run over by a car; Eric found it a couple minutes later, its heart still beating, in the process of expiring by the side of the road. Since we knew both time and cause1 of death, and refrigerated the carcass promptly, it was safe to eat. If you just want the skin, the time and mechanism of death isn't as relevant. Just be sensible, and make sure to clean yourself (and the snake parts) up properly.

A bit of internet research identified it as a probable Black Rat Snake, a non-poisonous Indiana resident.

1 Note that snakes can also die from eating poisoned rodents. You dont want to eat a snake dosed up with warfarin or other toxin2. Pay attention to context.

2 It's apparently fine to cook and eat poisonous snakes- cooking is sufficient to inactivate any venomous residue.

Step 2: Off With Its Head!

Just like the queen of hearts says.

You can use a nice sharp knife, or a pair of kitchen/poultry shears. Just stay away from serrated knives, as they don't do very well with snakeskin.

This is also the time to make sure you've properly prepped your area- I put a large cutting board on top of several layers of newspapers in the driveway, and put a wad of paper towels and a plastic bag for trash nearby.
Make sure to leave space for your implements, and bring bags and/or a bowl to save the good bits. If your mother is willing to take pictures that's a bonus!

Step 3: Find the Vent

Find the snake's anal vent.
This is an opening a couple of inches away from the tail, on the ventral (belly) side of the snake.

Step 4: Cut Open

Insert your poultry shears (or knife, or hefty scissors) into the snake's anal vent, and cut along the middle of the stomach towards the head.

If you want to keep the stomach skin intact, choose the site of your cut accordingly. You can even start cutting from the head; the vent just makes a great entry point.

Step 5: Observe Tire Tracks

I was using a (presumed) road-kill snake, so wanted to verify the cause of death. Thankfully, this was easy.

Check out the pictures below. You can clearly see where the tire ran over the snake's body- there's a massive hematoma slightly wider than a car tire. None of the ribs are broken, though; there's enough give in a tire (and flexibility in the snake's ribs) that they survived intact.

Step 6: Trim Connective Tissue

Next step: preparing to peel the snake skin off the body.

There's quite a bit of connective tissue working against you, as snakes generally like their muscles to stay tightly attached to their skins. We want to remedy that situation.

Grab a small sharp knife, again non-serrated, and carefully work under the skin near the head. Cut through the threads connecting the muscles and skin, being sure not to puncture the gorgeous skin. Work from the stomach around towards the back, tugging the skin away as you go to expose more fascia. Continue until you've got a good couple of inches clear near the head.

I used a pocket knife; a paring knife would work just as well.

Step 7: Peel Away

Once you've freed enough skin to act as a handle, put away the knife and do this the easy way.

Grip the snake body with one hand, the skin in the other, and pull gently but firmly until the skin separates. Use a paper towel if necessary to maintain a firm hold, and adjust your grip as you move down the body.

If the skin seems too delicate for this operation you can trim the whole thing off with your pocket knife, but it should work with most snakes.

You may need to make an additional slit to get the tail off, but try to leave it as intact as possible.

Step 8: Save Skin for Later Use

Now you've got a great snake skin! Use it now, or store for later.

I was visiting my parents in Indiana, and didn't have time to process the skin before my flight home to CA. Instead I scraped off the residual goo, rolled the skin from head to tail, double-bagged it in freezer bags, labeled it, and stuck it in the freezer for a later visit. (Thanks, Mom!)**

What should I do with the skin? All suggestions are welcome.


**UPDATE: my parents had a power outage before my next visit, and purged the contents of the freezer including my snake skin.  D'oh!

Step 9: Remove Guts

Now you're left with the denuded carcass.

Grab the guts, and pull. They're conveniently arranged in a tube along the snake's body, so just rip everything out.

Bury the guts in your yard- they'll be great fertilizer. Just make sure to dig deep enough that the raccoons and feral cats won't get to them easily.

Step 10: Clean and Prep

Wipe the chest cavity out with a paper towel, and give it a rinse if necessary.

You've now got a clean, dry snake carcass, ready for use in the recipe of your choice!

Chop it into manageable portions, and proceed with your recipe.

Step 11: Cook and Serve!

You can basically treat the snake like a small pond fish, or like a piece of chicken- it's a flexible critter.

Check out this Instructable to learn how to fry your own snake.

Eat, and enjoy!

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When I was a kid in the 1970s I lived in Taiwan and my parents and I would go to Taipei's famous "Night Market" on the weekends. In those days the mountains around Taipei were crawling with countless venomous snakes. Local legend has it that highly venomous snakes were released from a Japanese wartime experiment that had gone awry. Whatever the reason there were a lot of poisonous snakes and for a long time no one knew what to do with them.

The Night Market has different alleys, each with its own personality. "Snake Alley" is a narrow street full of food stalls selling dishes with snake (obviously) as the main ingredient. About midway down the alley there was a vendor who made a particularly excellent snake soup simmered with various Chinese medicinal herbs. The soup was said to detoxify your body and promote beautiful skin and overall good health. The reason for this claim was that poisonous snakes contain anti-venoms that can neutralize toxins and prevent the snake from poisoning itself. Those anti-venoms exist throughout the snake's body and are supposedly powerful detoxifiers that can remove all kinds of toxins from the human body. A man would bring out big venomous snakes caught in the mountains, kill them, and hang them by the head from a contraption that looked like an IV pole. With the dead snake hanging the man would slice it open from top to bottom with a quick slash, rip off the skin, then yank out the entrails (this is easier to do from an IV pole). Then he'd hand the snake to someone in the back who would quickly prepare your soup. All I remember was that the soup with the medicinal herbs was so good my 5 year-old self craved it every weekend! Although I haven't been back to Taiwan in over 30 years I still think about it once in a blue moon. Years later friends and family would visit us in the U.S. and bring snake soup in cans. I still remember that as a teenager my face always cleared up after I eat the soup (pimples and cysts both disappeared). I will be headed to Taiwan next year and plan to spend a few solid evenings indulging in Snake Alley!

You know, that was an awesome story. Thank you for sharing. I had no idea snakes - cooking a snake -- could provide a detoxifying substance. Thank you again so much sor sharing. And I hope you make it back to "Snake Alley" like you wanted.

for God sake why r u killing snakes? they are useful to avoid all the cripple animals and plagues invade your homes :S besides all the living be deserve to live :S , if you find one dead is another story

I personally hunt 1-2 times every week. About 75% of what I eat is something that I have killed myself. Even when I have enough meat in the freezer to make it through the next month, I STILL go out and hunt because it is a skill that I have to constantly practice at. So is skinning and cleaning the kill. So good for them for killing their meals and practicing the art of self reliance. You sound like you have a problem with them killing something so they can eat it. How is it better to buy it at the store? You didn't have to find it or kill it or skin it or clean it. I have SO much more respect for the animals that I eat and so much more respect for what it means to take an animal's life so I can survive BECAUSE I do the dirty work for nearly all of my meals. I probably have more respect for what it means to eat meat than you do because I don't have some middle man prepare my food for me. Try it sometime, it makes you much more respectful and appreciative of the luxuries we enjoy these days.

Firstly you obviously haven't read it being as it is written multiple times that the author found the critter as roadkill. secondly where's this unwritten law of nature that everything thats alive *deserves* it in some way, sad to say some stuffs just gotta die if you wanna keep living.

You can say that again!!!!!!!!!! There on this earth for a reason.

your named after a berserker in the sea of trolls?

She didn't kill it, she found it dead, as stated in the intro.

I feel bad for the snake.

great instructables