How to Preserve a Dead Turtle's Shell

Written by james stuart
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A turtle's shell is composed of a series of bone plates covered in a layer of keratin. This serves as the turtle's primary protection from predators, allowing the turtle to retract its body completely inside its shell. When your pet turtle dies, you may want to preserve its shell, which can make an attractive decoration for your shelf and a reminder of your pet. Unlike other taxidermy projects which involve harsh chemicals and complicated stuffing, this can be done with a simple, natural process.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Bury the turtle shell in a compost pile. The safest way to preserve a shell is by letting the turtle decompose naturally. Professional taxidermists often use chemicals and acids to dissolve the dead turtle, but this is dangerous for an amateur.

  2. 2

    Mark the turtle's burial spot so you can find it easily when it's time to dig it up.

  3. 3

    Check on the turtle shell every few weeks to ensure that the turtle is decomposing and the shell is undamaged. For obvious reasons, this can be gruesome, and is best carried out by an adult, especially if the turtle was a family pet.

  4. 4

    Dig up the shell once the turtle looks completely decomposed. There still may be bones and other material inside the shell. It's important not to wait too long to dig up the shell, because it can be damaged if left buried too long.

  5. 5

    Leave the shell out in the sun to dry for a few days. The smell is likely to be bad, so keep the shell outside, but somewhere safe from family pets and other animals.

  6. 6

    Wash the shell thoroughly, and it will be ready for display.

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