How To Cure & Prep A Tail For Displaying. Start To Finish.
How to Perform Salt Cure Taxidermy
Taxidermy is traditionally seen as a difficult and tedious art that takes years to perfect. However, by using simple methods of dehydration and preservation even an amateur can create simple taxidermy crafts using the salt bath process. Body parts containing little fat and tissue such as tails, feet, and paws can be preserved and altered to create neat trinkets such as necklaces, antenna toppers, hood ornaments, or anything that the imagination spawns.
Select a specimen.Almost any animal's paws, feet, or tails can be used whether it be a small creature such as a squirrel, or a larger animal such as a deer. Specimens can be collected from various sources. One primary collection method is simply to hunt the prey, but if you don't want to take the time to stalk, shoot, and clean the animal road kill can provide excellent samples. Keep in mind some US states require the purchase of a trapping license to retrieve road kill.
Find a container large enough to hold the sample.Be sure that the container can be filled with salt and will not be needed for 6-8 weeks.
Fill the bottom of the container with iodized salt.A thin layer on the bottom should suffice.
Clean and trim the sample.Often when cutting off a tail or paw there may be a little meat or refuse near the cut area. Trim this off and pour salt over the entire cut area. This is where most of the moisture will leave and where you will mount key rings etc.
Place the sample in the salt bath and cover completely with iodized salt.The dehydration process should take about 6 weeks depending on the size of the sample.
Process the sample.Once the specimen is completely cured out you can begin turning it into whatever you desire. For most small crafts such as key chains, necklaces, and antenna toppers you might consider covering the cut end of the specimen with a hardening polymer such as liquid steel and then sanding it once it is dry, drilling a hole through the polymer and the bone, and ultimately inserting a key ring, leather strap, etc.
QuestionIt says "salt bath," but does not mention adding water to the container. Will this be salt only or do I need to add water?QueerDeerCommunity AnswerGod no! The entire point of salt curing is to absorb all moisture from the specimen, leaving it dry and preserving fur and other parts of the animal that would normally rot. The word "bath" here just means "immersion," nothing to do with water.Thanks!
QuestionCan this work for entire small animals, like mice? I found a really beautiful one this morning. Also, after it's preserved, does the fur still feel soft?QueerDeerCommunity AnswerIf the specimen is small enough, it could work. I have a (salt) preserved wren heart, so I'm sure even (most of) the organs would preserve along with it. If anything, I'd make a slit somewhere along its stomach to allow it to properly 'breathe,' but that could also be an extremely delicate process, as you could split the bladder or other organs in the process! My best advice is to just try it out!Thanks!
QuestionAfter catching a skunk, I cut the tail off and removed the bone. Now after a few days in salt the hair is falling out. Did I mess it up or do I still have hope?Harper ACommunity AnswerIts likely that the tail was starting to slip. You should continue to preserve it but it's likely the hair will continue to fall out.Thanks!
QuestionI found a dead fawn's leg and cut it to just above the first joint in the leg, leaving mostly the bottom section. It's been in salt for 4 weeks, and it still smells. Is that normal?QueerDeerCommunity AnswerEverything you preserve will have a rotting smell (in my experience). As long as you notice it's "stiffening up" normally, it should be perfectly fine! For my deceased cat, I cut a pair of slits in his skin, up the "arms" to let the muscle breathe. Just make sure it's in a safe place, because flies will lay in salt. To aid with the smell afterwards, maybe let them sit in some herb(s)? I have some wren wings I put in a baggie of sage.Thanks!
QuestionMust I remove the bone first if I want to preserve a roadkill cat tail?Taylor Christopher Michael DoddCommunity AnswerYes. You should remove the tail bone by cutting all the way down, then add salt.Thanks!
QuestionMy kangaroo back scratcher has paws. Do I just add salt?Harper ACommunity AnswerIf it's a back scratcher, it's likely already persevered. You don't need to add salt or attempt to preserve them any further.Thanks!
QuestionJust found a dead owl, what do I need to do to keep its feet?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGet gloves, because this is going to get messy. Grab a knife and cut all around the leg joint. Bend the leg backwards at the joint. Use a serrated knife to gently cut through any cartilage or muscle around the joint and pull it off. Then, cure or preserve using whatever method you please.Thanks!
QuestionI want to preserve the back paws and tail of a rat. What steps do I need to take?QueerDeerCommunity AnswerTo start, you'll need (iodized) salt and a container big enough to hold the pieces without any of them touching. If you have the body, you could either use a knife or a pair of scissors to cut the joint on the legs. For the tail, cut as close to the body as you can. If you plan on wrapping the feet at all, I would just leave part of the upper leg attached to each foot. After you've done this, just bury the feet and tail in salt as the guide says.Thanks!
QuestionIf I found a crow with legs that are already dried, can I soak it in water to clean it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, do not soak it in water! Continue drying it for about a month, and put it in a salt bath during that period of time. If you notice that the salt is getting wet, change it out and put new salt around it until there is no more moisture.Thanks!
QuestionDo I seal the container when I leave it in the salt?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. It is best you seal the container, as to not allow excess moisture from the air to further lengthen the drying.Thanks!
Can I persevere a coon's head with fur and skull intact?
- In 6 weeks check the sample and see if it is stiff and dry. The salt around it may become clumpy from the absorbed moisture. Feel all along the sample. You should be able to feel the bones beneath the skin all along the sample. If you don't feel that the sample is finished curing out place it back in the salt bath and repeat the process in another 2 weeks.
- When collecting tails, etc. from roadkill keep in mind that winter is the best time because decomposition slows in cold weather. Also, dead animals can carry bacteria and germs so extra precaution should be taken when retrieving the specimen. Dip the sample in rubbing alcohol before working with it.
- Often specimens may have a faint odor after coming out of the salt. To alleviate this, place the sample in potpourri, or spray with strong perfume to cover over any odor. You might also consider dipping the sample in rubbing alcohol to eliminate any possible germs. Be sure to dry off immediately afterwards.
- When retrieving samples from roadkill be extra cautious about traffic. It is safer to pull the animal to the side of the road and then take your time in cutting off the tail, paw, etc. The best and safest tool to use in cutting off the sample is pruning shears, which make a straight clean cut.
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