How to Clean Bear Claws

Written by kent page mcgroarty
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How to Clean Bear Claws
The Peabody Museum at Harvard hosts a famous bear claw necklace. (brown bear image by MAXFX from

Bear claws have a long history of use with Native American peoples, including bear claw necklaces. The grizzly bear was viewed as a medicine animal with magical powers among most tribes, according to, and bear claw necklaces were worn for protection and good health. Bear claw necklaces are still available today -- as are other bear claw products -- such as key chains, or dreamcatchers. Cleaning and preserving bear claws is simple, once you pry off the excess flesh.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Borax
  • Small bowl
  • Rotary tool (optional)

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  1. 1

    Lie the bear paw on a cutting board, with the claws pointing to the left. Grab a claw where the hair begins, with the thumb and first finger of your left hand. Use your right hand to feel for the joint, which should be about a half-inch from where the skin starts on the paw. Make a cut through the skin straight down with a sharp knife, then rotate your knife hand slightly to the right. Cut to the left in a crescent shape.

  2. 2

    Hold the claw by the attached hairs -- so the tip of the claw is facing up -- and the pad is facing away from your hand. Make straight cuts down one side of the claw, between the hair and the back of the claw. Repeat on the other side of the claw, with what is left of the pad. Keep some skin on the claw. Essentially, you are giving the claw a "close shave", according to

  3. 3

    Set the claw out in a sunny spot to dry, if necessary. Place the claw in a small bowl of Borax. Shake the bowl or flip the claw over -- every two days -- for a week. Repeat process with the remaining claws on the bear paw, if desired.

Tips and warnings

  • Use rotary tools for additional cleaning and polishing of the claw.
  • Do not put the claw in the freezer, or store in salt.

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