Introduction: How to Skin and Clean a Dead Snake

Picture of 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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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!


MoonR (author)2014-09-01

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!

DesireeL13 (author)MoonR2016-09-11

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.

piper1234 (author)2007-11-05

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

smithclo6790 (author)piper12342015-09-30

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.

The-Only-Duke (author)piper12342015-06-25

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.

Olaf One-Brow (author)piper12342007-11-09

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

shadowg (author)Olaf One-Brow2007-11-12

your named after a berserker in the sea of trolls?

Olaf One-Brow (author)shadowg2007-11-19

Ya I like Nancy Farmer books.

Vendigroth (author)piper12342007-11-10

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

Math Logic And Nerd Studios made it! (author)2015-07-19

So creepy! it still moves after being gutted!

If u want it to not move after gutting it, just freeze it for about a day or so.

turtle keeper (author)2015-09-13

I feel bad for the snake.

great instructables

We are BBQ-ing it!

how would you BBQ it? We'd like to BBQ our Copperhead

gibberish master (author)2015-06-20

Why does it have to be a snake!nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

zman1204 (author)2015-03-04

I am a 16 year old guy so this instructable is so thing awesome use of my time my friends call me when they run over snakes and other things I have gotten skilled enough to make a snake skin hat ( not completely snake skin) I only will do this to ones that have died of natural causes you can find them in the woods

ббат-очирын (author)2015-01-04

The most discussing instructables ever seen, sorry

m4iler (author)2014-06-11

How do you eat it? I suppose the spine and ribs are still inside the little bastard. I have a 27 years old boa constrictor (he was a bad hatchling, the keeper said it would live 10 years, tops). It's older than me and is 2.5 meters long. When he dies, I'll try to make the best of my life-long pet. Awesome tutorial!

smccormick7 (author)2014-05-12

my ball phyton died . i did all these steps not perfect lol but yea anybody wants to buy my snake skin . it was about 5ft tall i live on nyc .

knifeking (author)2014-05-03

if the snake is dead hrs than it will stink real have to deal with it :)

Morte_Moya (author)2014-01-25

That is one very nice instructable! I love eating snake. Rattlesnake is by far my favorite! Great job.

This is great! Thanks for showing us all! This instructable has received a lot of attention.

Jakejb3 (author)2013-10-16

Looks like u cut yourself try to cut the snake

studleylee (author)2013-07-19

Very cool! I think this will work on Politicians too. Just have to drain the extra grease.....

MahatmaBlondii (author)2013-04-01

O_o This just makes me cringe...I have two pythons. Why I clicked on this, I don't know. Curiosity I suppose. However, very informative instructable that I think a lot of people could find useful :)

Just not me :P

LvNo1000 (author)MahatmaBlondii2013-06-26

I don't have any snakes as pets, but I agree that it is very informative. 5/5

DuctTapeExtremeDude (author)2013-03-13

Can you keep the skin from rotting just by tacking it to a board or something and letting it air out or do you need to add something to help preserve it?

It depends on where you live, and how well you've cleaned the skin.

If humidity is super-high, you'll likely want to rub the skin down with borax or salt to keep anything from growing on the skin while it dries, and tack it down to something like a screen for better breathability. If you live in a desert, far less to worry about - you can just tack it out almost anywhere and it will dry nicely.

Just be aware that the skin will be crispy, not pliable - you've got to do a bit of treatment to make it soft.

Thanks! I've heard that if you put a skin over something and pull it back and forth so that it bends it will make it pliable. Would that work on a snake skin?

ill soon post a detailed segment on snake tanning soon you can make cool junk like me

Looks cool! I'll look forward to seeing how to do it myself. Thanks!

mattiemack (author)2013-05-19 did somebody say snake hide? haha also heres what i do with the bones

animal lover (author)2013-05-18

Shouldn't you be wearing gloves?

nickolaiisoe (author)2013-04-21

Profit? Gow

mcmonte (author)2013-02-10

It's the cloaca or cloacal opening.

lbrewer42 (author)2013-01-03

I once made a hatband from a copperhead that was stepped on by one of the bulls in the corral.

Schmidty16 (author)2012-07-16

you could cut off the head and take everything out and then put wash out the hide and put it inside out and use it to carry water

bpfh (author)2010-08-22

My SAS Survival Book says:
"Discard internal organs, which may carry salmonella.
Reptiles can be cooked in their skins. Large snakes can be chopped into steaks and provide useful skins. To prepare a snake, cut off head well down, behind poison sacs; open vent to neck keeping blade outwards, to avoid piercing innards, which will fall clear. Skewer to suspend and ease of skin towards tail."

The final phrase (yes, "of", not "off" - a typo probably) reminds me of skinning fish: Skewer through head or back, and peel the skin off... Otherwise, if the snake is roasted, the skin should peel off easier. Anyone for a BBQ?

HollyMann (author)bpfh2012-06-28

I love my SAS survival guide. I am hoping I don't ever need to do this - eat a snake that is - but if so, I will have some knowledge...thanks! You are brave Canida!

x3n0c1dal (author)2012-05-19

Anal vent is an incorrect term, as far as I am aware. I believe it's just anus.

memememefor (author)2012-03-28

always clean your dead snake

memememefor (author)2012-03-28


Ghattasdb (author)2012-03-02

Put it on a strip of leather and make a bracelet.

Brazilian Saber Tooth (author)2012-03-02

Awesome! Usefull knowledge!

I'm gonna have to try with my new tool.


macmundi (author)2010-09-08

There are lots of dead dogs on the streets here in Thailand. Maybe the people here got tired of their pets and run them over.

oriole (author)macmundi2010-09-09

Take them to Indonesia. They'll barbecue it for you

spanner1969 (author)oriole2011-01-06

they DO NOT eat dog in Indonesia.

They are an Islamic country and moslems do not touch dogs. If a dog licks them they must undergo a purifacation at the local mosque.

Your racist ignorance is dispicable.

AERenoir (author)spanner19692011-07-20

Oh, says who? Indonesia is not a Muslim country, it's a country with a Muslim-majority population. Those who aren't Muslim can touch dogs all they want. I'm Indonesian, and I'm not Muslim. I even own two dogs.

That being said, sure Indonesians do eat dogs. Not ALL of them do, as it's not a common delicacy, but there are some people who do. I've known some places where they go and cook dogs (sometimes even cats too).

sweetpoetaoe (author)AERenoir2011-08-22

I've known americans to eat dogs as well. All though usaully in roadkill scenario

About This Instructable




Bio: I've been posting Instructables since the site's inception, and now build other things at Autodesk. Follow me for food and more!
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