Taxidermy supplies and tips > Muskrat taxidermy

Muskrat taxidermy

With a suitable specimen at hand it is for us to decide if we shall mount it or preserve it as a skin temporarily or indefinitely. To illustrate we will presume that we have a muskrat just from the trap
which is to be mounted at once.

Before skinning it is best to get some measurements to guide us in the later work. In this case where the skin is to be mounted immediately a sim ple outline is sufficient, as we will have the body in the flesh and all the leg bones, etc., to guide us in rebuilding the creature.

To get such outline, lay the animal on its side on a piece of blank paper, put the feet and legs in some natural position, fasten them in place with a few pins and mark around the entire animal with
a pencil. The eye, hip and shoulder joints, and base of skull may be indicated on this outline sheet.

Our muskrat is a trapped and drowned one so we will not have to replace the shot hole plugs with fresh ones, as would be best if it had been killed with the gun. Also it has been dead long enough
for the rigor mortis to prevent the free flaw of blood and body juices which bother the operator if it has been killed but an hour or less.

Laying the animal on its back, make the opening cut by pushing the knife point through the skin at the juncture of neck and chest. Run the blade down between skin and flesh, separating the skin in
a long clean cut to, the root of the tail. Open the tail also along the under side from the tip to within an inch or so of its base. Slit open the sole of each foot from the middle toe to the heel and further if necessary so the leg skin may be turned down over the foot.

Beginning at this central cut, skin back each side until the shoulder and hip joints are encountered. Bending the limb will show the exact joint where the muscles are cut apart and the legs severed from the body. Cut off the tail near its base, leaving it in the skin for the present. Loosen the skin from back and shoulders and turn it wrong side out over the head. Skin down until the ears are reached, cutting them off close down to the head and continue on to the eyes. Work carefully around these and cut close to the skull to avoid hacking the eyelids. Cut through the nose cartilage, and when the lips are reached cut them away close to the gums, leaving both their inner and outer skin on the pelt. Cutting them off at the edge
of the hair is a frequent cause of trouble as they are full and fleshy and should be split, pared down on the inside and when mounted, filled out to their natural shape to perfect the anatomy.

Now the skin of each leg may be turned wrong side out down to the toes and all flesh and muscle cut away from the leg bones with knife and scissors. The tail also is to be removed from its skin and the ears turned wrong side out to their tips. In skinning no flesh of any consequence should be left adhering to the skin and it should newer be pulled off by main strength, but rather separated by
the knife or fingers, pushing the flesh away from the skin rather than the reverse. The skull should now be cleaned as the leg bones were and if a number of specimens are being prepared at the same
time the heads may be put in a kettle and boiled a short time, when on trying with a fork or awl the flesh becomes tender and may be rapidly removed with a knife.

The brain may be removed with a hooked wire, the skull well rinsed inside and out and given a good coat of arsenical paste or other preservative. The next step is determined by what you intend doing
with the skin. If it is to be kept for purposes of study without mounting it should be made up as a scientific skin. If to be mounted at once or in the near future it should be put in the jar of salt and acid or alum. It can of course be mounted at once without this, bath but I believe it is well worth any extra work it entails.

Some young furred animals and others with very delicate skins do, not work up well from the bath and had best be mounted without it, being handled more as bird skins are.

In skinning the larger quadrupeds we make two additional cuts, from the right to the central line and out to the left forefoot and a similar cut connecting the hind feet. These opening cuts are on the back and inside of the legs, you will understand. With most large subjects another cut from the shoulders up the back of the neck is necessary. On animals having horns or antlers this is terminated
in a Y or T shape, reaching the base of the antlers. After loosening the skin around the antlers the head is removed through this incision. As it is hardly possible to make an outline sketch of a large animal, as full a set of measurements as possible is
useful in all cases.

The bones of the legs will be in the way attached to the skin and the two upper bones of each leg may be detached and if lack of space or transportation make it necessary, thrown away, though
if the bones of one hind leg and one front leg are preserved artificial duplicates may be carved.