Saturday, March 3, 2012

How To: Drying Out A Squirrel Tail, the Quick and Dirty Way

Last week, Rick and I spent some time in the San Gabriel Mountains (Read our post on hiking tips here.) We hiked up to the Baldy Ski Lodge to enjoy a pint of beer, took great pictures and even got to play in the snow. On our way back, we saw a squirrel lying on the side of the trail. Poor guy has been dead for about a couple hours. His body was cold and already very stiff. There weren't any tire tracks on him. No signs of wounds. We couldn't figure out how he died.
It was as if he was just minding his own business, eating his little nuts and then suddenly had a heart attack, fell over and died. As we were examining him, a couple hikers came by. We chatted with them for a little, but Rick seemed a little antsy, as if he wanted them to leave. As the hikers turned the corner, Rick quickly drew out his Buck knife, bent down and cut the tail off. To be honest, I was slightly shocked. Out of all my years in hiking, I have never seen anybody do this, even though it's perfectly legal. But it was pretty funny. Rick said that he didn't know how those hikers would've felt about him doing that, so better safe than sorry. 

So, we brought the tail home and dried it out, the quick and dirty way. This isn't tanning with chemicals, because we didn't have the resources for it. But should you ever come by a dead squirrel and wanted to save it without expert tanning know-how, this is an easy way. All you need is salt and a dry place where cats and other critters can't get to. 


1. Carefully, try to peel the skin and fur down the tail bone, exposing the top of the bone. Get a good grip on the bare tail bone with pliers. 

2. Lay the tail underside up on a flat surface. Cut through the skin and fur along the tail bone with a sharp knife. Make sure you cut the backside of the tail, not the pretty topside. 

We recommend that you do this outside. There will be critters living in the tail still. 
Only cut down far enough so you can easily pull the tail bone out.
Like so.
3. Using regular table salt, cover the exposed, raw skin completely with salt, piling high. Try to get as much salt as you can down the tail shaft as well.The salt will leech the moisture from the tail, preventing spoilage.
4. Lay the tail flat, salted side up. Store in a dry place outside where neighborhood animals cannot get to. 

It is important that the tail lays flat. The tail will dry in the position it is placed.
5. The tail should dry in a week, or sooner, and all the critters living in it will leave. Scrape the salt off the tail, which will be hard and solidified. 
There will be some salt sticking to the hide. You can further scrape off the salt with something rough, if you wish.
There you have it! You want to careful when handling this. Since it is not tanned the proper way, the fur may come off if you yank too hard or play with it too much. But, it's perfect for tacking up on a wall, to look at and admire.

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