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Squirrel Study Skin
Preserving Fish
Sketching Aquarium
Preserving Insects
Marine Animals

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By Dan Beard

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Place the bird on it, back upon the table, in such a position that the head will be toward your left hand; then, with the knife in your right hand you are ready to make the incision.

With your left hand separate the feathers, left and right, from the apex of the breast-bone to the tail (Fig. 148).  Cut a straight slit through the skin between these points, using the utmost care to prevent the knife penetrating the flesh or the inner skin which encloses the intestines.  

With a bird as large as the owl, you will find that you can easily separate the skin from the flesh with your finger, though it may be best to use a blunt instrument, such as a small ivory paper-cutter, to reach the back by passing it underneath the skin.  In removing the skin you most try to shove in lieu of pulling, lest you stretch it out of shape.  Press as lightly as possible upon the bird, stepping occasionally to take a view to see that all is right and that the feathers are not being soiled or broken.

When you come to the head do not let the skin dangle from your hand or its own weight will stretch it.  Bearing these things in mind you can commence removing the skin in the following manner:  Press the skin apart at the incision, and dust the exposed part with Indian meal to absorb any fluids that may escape; carefully lift the skin on one aide and separate from muscles of the breast with the point of your knife and a small ivory paper-folder alternately, as occasion may require, until the leg is reached and you have approached as near as possible to the wings. 

Having accomplished this, and dusted again with the Indian meal, the thighs must be pressed inward and the skin turned back far enough to allow you to use your knife and disarticulate the hip-joint.

Bend the tail toward the back; keep down the detached skin upon each side of the incision with the thumb and first finger of the left hand; then with your knife make a deep cut, exposing the back one at a point near the oil gland which you will find near the root of the tail; sever the backbone near this point, but be careful to leave a large enough piece of it to support the tail feathers.

Take the part of the body which is now denuded of the skin in the left hand and peel the skin upward to the wings; during this operation your knife or small scissors may be used to cut any of the tendons which are met with. Separate the wings from the body at the shoulder-joint.  Next turn your attention to the head and neck. Push the skin back toward the head, after the manner of removing a kid glove from the finger, until the back part of the skull is laid bare; then with your knife detach the vertebrae (neck bone) from the head.

This will sever all connection between the body and the skin.  The dismembered, denuded carcass may be thrown asides and your attention turned to skinning the head, which member in an owl is so large in proportion to the neck that care must be used in drawing the skin of the neck over it, lest you stretch the skin.  A great deal depends upon the delicacy of your touch, especially when you reach the eyes.  Work slowly; cut the ears close to the skull ; do not cut either the eyelid or the eyeball, but separate them carefully; then remove the eyes, which can be done by breaking the slender bones which separate the orbits (eye-holes) in the skull from the top of the mouth. 

Cut away all flesh from the neck; at the same time remove a small portion of the base of the skull.  Through the opening thus made extract the brains with a small spoon or some similar instrument, after which draw the tongue through the same cavity.  After removing all fleshy particles from the head and neck, and scraping cut the eye-holes, paint them with arsenical soap and stuff them tightly with cotton.  Be careful not to detach the skin from the bill, as the skull must be left in place.  Coat the interior of the skull with arsenical soap and fill it with tow.

The wings and legs still remain intact.  Push back the wings to the first joint; lay the bones bare, removing all the meat.

Paint with arsenical soap [Note: arsenical soap is no longer used for taxidermy, see Squirrel Study Skin], and return them to their places.  Go through the same process with the legs and rump; and after all flesh and fatty matter have been removed, paint the whole interior of the skin thoroughly with arsenical soap, and you are ready to begin the operation of Stuffing.

American Boy's Handy Book






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.