How to Taxidermy Animal Skulls

Written by dave p. fisher
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How to Taxidermy Animal Skulls
Animal skulls can be hunting trophies or used for study (Getty creative)

The most common trophy of a hunt is to have the head mounted or a rug made from the skin. The skull of the animal also makes for an interesting trophy in addition to the mount. Preserving animal skulls presents a way to study the anatomy of an animal's head and serves as an educational tool in the field of animal biology. The process of preserving a skull can be done at home and the necessary ingredients purchased from a supermarket.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sharp knife
  • Metal pot big enough to hold the skull
  • Sodium Carbonate
  • Dish soap, degreasing formula
  • Gloves, rubber chemical resistant
  • Eye protection
  • Plastic bucket
  • Laundry bleach
  • Paint brush, 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide
  • Polyurethane clear sealer

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  1. 1

    Clean all the flesh from the skull by cutting it away with a knife. Remove the eyes and tongue. Remove the brain through the spinal opening at the back of the skull.

  2. 2

    Fill the pot with enough clean cold water to cover the skull. Add 60 ml (1/4 cup) of sodium carbonate for skulls fox-size and smaller or 120 ml (1/2 cup) for a larger skull. Place the skull in the pot and bring the water to a rolling boil.

  3. 3

    Turn the heat down to simmer for one hour. At the end of the hour pour off the water and refill the pot with clean water and the same amount of sodium carbonate. Replace the skull. Bring water to a boil, and then turn down to simmer for one hour.

  4. 4

    Remove the skull from the pot and rinse thoroughly in warm water. Pick off any flesh remaining on the skull.

  5. 5

    Wash the skull in warm water and degreaser dish soap. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.

  6. 6

    Put on rubber gloves and eye protection. Mix equal parts cold water and laundry bleach in a plastic bucket. Mix enough solution to completely cover the skull.

  7. 7

    Place the skull in the bleach solution. Leave a large skull such as a bear or deer in the solution for 10 days. Mid-size skulls like a fox leave in for six days, and a small squirrel size skull for two days. Make a new mix of water and bleach after four days as the solution will weaken.

  8. 8

    Remove the skull from the bleach solution and thoroughly rinse it in cold water and then rinse it again in warm water.

  9. 9

    Place the skull in a warm place away from vermin to dry. The drying process can take up to 30 days depending on the temperature and humidity. Test for dryness by scraping the bone with your fingernail; when no residue scrapes off the bone it is dry.

  10. 10

    Paint the skull with a coat of clear polyurethane as a preservative. Paint it well into the teeth and all cracks in the bone. Polyurethane serves as a barrier between the bone and damage from oxygen, moisture, and prevents yellowing.

  11. 11

    Mount the dry skull on a plaque for display or leave it as is for study.

Tips and warnings

  • The bleaching whitens the skull and serves as a preservative for the bone. During the bleaching process the skull will whiten and any remaining tissue will be dissolved.
  • After the skull has thoroughly dried check the teeth for tightness as the process sometimes loosens the teeth. If a tooth pulls out glue it back in the socket with craft glue.
  • Always wear rubber chemical resistant gloves and eye protection when handling bleach.
  • Keep the bleach solution in a safe place away from children and pets.

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