Jump to content


Search Articles


Recent Comments


* * * * *

The retrieving and cleaning of bones from roadkill


From our own Honeythorn:


1. Before you start

What body parts are you looking to retrieve from the animal?

You need to ask yourself this question before you collect it. No good scraping up anything flat, it will be of no use to you. Skull shattered? did you want the skull? If not, what else can you collect from the animal?

How long do you estimate it to have been there?

If you only want bones, this doesn't really matter. But if you want skin/fur/paws/tails/wings/feet/whole heads , then you must not try to preserve anything over a day dead. It will have begun to decay and the smell will linger even after drying. The fresher the better


2 - Scrape it up.


For those of you who are able to drive, I would reccomend that you keep plastic sheeting in your car.


For those like myself, who are not able to drive
, I personally always keep a few plastic grocery bags in every handbag I use on a regular basis , and also my workbag. You simply never know when you'll find something dead, and thus you will always have a bag or two handy.

Disposable gloves may be needed in the case of larger animals.

To pick up a small-ish body - It's exactly like scooping a dogshit. Put your hand in the grocery bag ( turn the bag inside out and make sure it has no holes or rips ) , pick up the body, and turn the bag the right way. This way you can retrieve the body quickly and cleanly, without touching it barehanded.

For larger animals - This will require the plastic sheeting and gloves . The best way would be to roll the animal onto the first third of the sheet, and then roll it up in the plastic before hoisting it into your car.


Things to watch out for


Bodily fluids and excreta - Blood, guts and shit basically. Make sure your plastic bag or sheet has no holes or rips !!! The body may be gassy or bloated depending on how decayed it is. Bloated bodies have been known to explode when moved, you are forewarned !

Smells - This will depend on how long the body has been there, and the level of stench in older bodies will be affected by heat and cold. The hotter it is, the smellier it will be.

Traffic - If the thing is in the middle of a busy road, LEAVE IT THERE. No matter how desirable it may be, no dead animal is worth getting mowed down for, and you may be arrested for obstructing traffic and distracting drivers. If you really must have the thing, return in the small hours of the night, when roads are quieter and usually safer, and retrieve the body as quickly and safely as you are able. Be aware that it's condition may be worse than when you first saw it, as people may have driven over it even more during the elapsed time.

Police officers - To my knowledge it's not illegal to pick up roadkill. It saves the local road cleaners a job if nothing else. But if you are unsure, check with your local authorities beforehand. They will probably think you are insane.


3. Interrment

Burial - I have an area of my garden where I bury my bodies, those with limited or no garden space should find buckets or large plastic storage tubs ( the deep lidded sort you put old crap in and stick in the attic ) to be a cheap and easy option. I dig a hole about 8-10 inches deep. For a bucket, put it close to the bottom about 1/3 of the way from the base.

Soil . The type of soil you have may affect the speed of decay. Very sandy/salty coastal soil or boggy peat rich soil, may slow down the decay of the body. Human bodies have been found on/near beaches and peat bogs, effectively preserved by the type of earth they are buried in ( some are over 2000 years old, such as the Lindow bodies ) If you have such an unsuitable soil, then buy yourself a cheap bag of potting soil or compost to put in your buckets.

Additions and helpers - Got ants nests? Use them ! Bury your body close to the nest, the ants should help with stripping the flesh away. You could also try purchasing some fishing maggots, chuck them onto your body, and cover with a few inches of soil. If you do choose to do that, don't bury the body quite so far down as the maggots will become flies in a few weeks and will need to escape.

I also pour a couple of jugfulls of warm water over the site of burial after a few weeks. Nothing speeds up decay like moisture and heat.


4. How long to wait?

For anything rabbit sized downwards, 4-6 months should be enough to take most of the flesh off. Weather and time of year may cause this time to change in either direction. In summer ( and also warm summer rainstorms ) the heat will speed it up, winter will freeze the body and slow it down.

I usually check on the body after a couple of months to see how it's doing.

Larger animals will take a year or more depending on what/how big they are. It would be a good idea to skin, gut and remove as much flesh as possible from larger animals to help speed the process up. I cannot advise on the best way to do this, as I have never done it. But information should be easily googled, or if you know anyone with experience, ask them to tell you or do it for you if they will.

( Skinning and gutting can of course be done with smaller animals too, I mean to try this at some point of mother allows it )

5. Dig it up

Ok so you've waited your time, now to dig up your body. I use a small Plastic narrow trowell for this, as always, wear glovs. Dig carefully, no jabbing or hacking at the dirt, you could damage your bones.

It helps to try and remember how far down you laid the body, and in what position - take a photo at the time of burial if needs be, so you know what should be where when you shovel it up.

Buckets could be tipped out onto a large plastic sheet if you don't want to dig. You can re-use the dirt and simply put it back in the bucket ready for the next visitor.


Condition - Are there remnants of flesh left on the bones? Some brains left in the skull? No problem, there is a way to remove remaining bits of flesh.


7. Maceration


Ok so now you have your dug up bones, but any further flesh remnants need to be removed. This can be done with maceration. I use the cold water style. This is literally a bucket of water. Chuck your bones in, and leave the bucket for a week , preferably in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Change the water each week. It should take about 1 month , though more of course of there is a fair bit of flesh remaining when you dig up the bones.


After all flesh is gone and skulls are empty, don your disposable gloves once more, and take the bones out of the bucket. I initially dry mine on kitchen paper.


NOTE - You can macerate a body from the getgo instead of burying it. I have never done this myself at home as mother will not allow me to do so. The water does become quite smelly. You should skin, gut and deflesh as much of the animal as you can before submerging it in water. This is better suited to fresh bodies, not decaying ones .

I did however do a water maceration by accident, when a blackbird fell into a waterbutt down the allotments and drowned ( my brother found it floating ) . I left it in there and placed fine mesh under the submerged body to catch any bones as the flesh rotted away. The process took well over a month ( close to 2 and a half ) as I didn't remove or touch the body, and of course the guts and all the flesh had to decay ( had I removed and gutted it, this would have been quicker )




8 . Further drying


After drying with kitchen paper, the bones will still not be quite dry on the inside where you cannot reach. To dry the insides, I bury the bones in salt, in a carboard box ( I use a shoebox ) Use enough salt to cover the bones by about half a centimeter. I use basic table salt for this. It's cheap and it works.


I leave the bones in the salt for a couple of weeks. After this, they are ready for use





The drying of wings, feet, heads,tails, paws ect.



Remember, the animal MUST be one day dead or less.

Remove wings by cutting where the wing joins the body. I use a craft knife and wire cutters for this. I pluck the feathers around the site of the cuting beforehand to make this easier.

For whole bird tails, breasts or sections of skin with feathers attached ( that you wish to remain attached ) , you need to remove the piece of skin that the feathers are attached to. Inspect the feathers around the area to see where they join, then pluck and cut slightlyabove that area. A sharp craft knife should be fine for this. Remove as much fat and flesh from the underside of the cut skin as you are able. This will help speed up the drying process ( less flesh to dry ).

Heads, Tails and Paws. You may need the wire cutters to get through any bones. Slice through the skin and muscles first with a knife. For heads, carefully cut as close to the skull as you can where the neck joins it.


Drying -

Again, I use salt and a shoebox. You will need more than for bones, you really need to cover the parts. I do know that in the US Cornmeal is also popular as a drying agent for this sort of work, so feel free to try that. I have no idea if it can be found in the UK though I shall have a looksie. I would personally use a mixture of both.

1 month should be enough time for lean parts such as skin sections, tails, legs/paws and small wings to have dried. 2 months is best for large wings and heads.

Check the parts . If they are still flexible, squishy in the slightest ect, put the back and leave for another month.

A very very faint meaty smell is normal in dried parts. But if you pick up any whiff of rot or decay, bin the part at once, it cannot be saved ( and it means the body was older than you thought it was and had started to decay ) .

Use an old toothbrush or small paintbrush to brush off encrusted salt or cornmeal.


Your parts should now be ready for use :)


It's a long process, but worth it and has always worked for me well enough so far. Hopefully I've explained it all clearly and as thoroughl as I can. I don't think I left anything out.....


51 Comments

Photo
Deguwitchrose
Sep 14 2012 10:26 PM
I really wish I had come across this excellent article a few months ago. However I suppose there is something to be said from learning from one's own experience even when that experience isn't too pleasant. You see, a few months
ago while walking in the woods I came across a dead badger. As the skull was separate from the body - it was in the advanced stages of decomposure - I took it home intending to clean and keep the skull for magic work. Unfortunately I didn't have the faintest idea how to make my hairy, fleshy badger head into a nice clean skull. So I stuck it in a saucepan on the stove and boiled it up with the intention of removing the flesh. I have to say that the smell of boiling dead badger is without a shadow of a doubt the most revolting smell I have ever come across. It stank the house out for days. The whole process took around eight hours and I had to keep prising bits off the skull with kitchen knives. Eventually I ended up with a ruined saucepan, a stinking kitchen and admittedly a clean and functional badger skull. But never again. Next time I'm following the advice in this article.
    • 0

I really wish I had come across this excellent article a few months ago. However I suppose there is something to be said from learning from one's own experience even when that experience isn't too pleasant. You see, a few months
ago while walking in the woods I came across a dead badger. As the skull was separate from the body - it was in the advanced stages of decomposure - I took it home intending to clean and keep the skull for magic work. Unfortunately I didn't have the faintest idea how to make my hairy, fleshy badger head into a nice clean skull. So I stuck it in a saucepan on the stove and boiled it up with the intention of removing the flesh. I have to say that the smell of boiling dead badger is without a shadow of a doubt the most revolting smell I have ever come across. It stank the house out for days. The whole process took around eight hours and I had to keep prising bits off the skull with kitchen knives. Eventually I ended up with a ruined saucepan, a stinking kitchen and admittedly a clean and functional badger skull. But never again. Next time I'm following the advice in this article.




Ewwww,that sounds soooooooo disgusting but quite funny,ahhh memories.
    • 0
.

Thank you for an interesting and detail step by step article. I voted it up.

.
    • 0
Photo
Abraxia Thalgus
Nov 11 2012 11:15 AM
Thank you for this article, it's perfect timing for me as I've come across my first dead animal I want to preserve.

Deguwitchrose, thanks for the laugh :)
    • 0
Whiterose, can you advise me, sweetheart?

I've spent the last few hours trying to comfort a dying fox who dragged itself to my door. No obvious injuries so I suspect a car's hit it. I was so relieved when it finally breathed its last, poor thing.
But I'm wondering now if it's possible to harvest any of its parts. I've been given the phone number of the local council who will chuck it in a bin bag and incinerate it.
It just died about an hour ago - so - still fresh, and looks in good condition. What do you think? I'm thinking it particular about the brush. Is there anything inside it that would 'go off' and smell?
Thanks.
Abs.
    • 0

Whiterose, can you advise me, sweetheart?

I've spent the last few hours trying to comfort a dying fox who dragged itself to my door. No obvious injuries so I suspect a car's hit it. I was so relieved when it finally breathed its last, poor thing.
But I'm wondering now if it's possible to harvest any of its parts. I've been given the phone number of the local council who will chuck it in a bin bag and incinerate it.
It just died about an hour ago - so - still fresh, and looks in good condition. What do you think? I'm thinking it particular about the brush. Is there anything inside it that would 'go off' and smell?
Thanks.
Abs.


I'm sorry I just saw this, but it wasn't me who was the roadkill expert, it was Honeythorn. I have no idea how to preserve animal parts as I don't use animal parts in my craft as of right now. Weird that this was addressed to me and that I saw this today with recent events.... :(
    • 0
Fox tails are pretty easy you do need to remove the skin making a slit down the underside and then pulling it off like a sock and clean the meat off the bones and scrap the hide though you can simply bury the tail bone as brilliantly written about but you also must scrape any tissue off the hide then we usually place them in a bag of rock salt to get out any additional fluid and to preserve it. We let them stay in the bag for a couple months then you can sew it back together or what ever you wish. Some people use a stick of willow instead of the bone and it workers out very well. Oh ya make sure you brush out all the sat so the tail gets nice and fluffy Agin.

One of the biggest mistakes I made is cutting in to deep toy only want to cut down through the skin layers not into the meat of the animal.
    • 0
Photo
Autumn Moon
Dec 10 2012 02:42 AM
So, if I find a dead human in the woods (more likely than you think in Canada).....
    • 0

So, if I find a dead human in the woods (more likely than you think in Canada).....


Put up good protections, take a gps reading, and get the hell outta dodge :P
    • 0

So, if I find a dead human in the woods (more likely than you think in Canada).....


You will need a "really" big bucket.

J
    • 0

You will need a "really" big bucket.

J




Hahaaaaaa,yep a Big bucket and lots of wipes.
    • 0
If you have removed as much soft tissue as possible an easy way to remove the remaining material is to put the skeletal remains in water that has a solution of Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) consisting of approximately 10g of this caustic per 100ml of water. The solution is heated but kept below boiling temp. I do this outside or under a fume hood in a lab environment. The time is dependent upon how much soft tissue remains but this process of resomation (chemical cremation) rapidly removes excess water from the bones due to the affinity KOH has with water, sterilizes the remains and destroys the remaining soft tissues including the hard to remove cartilage and ligaments. Do not attempt this procedure without adequate protective glasses, gaunlet style chemical resistant gloves and apron and adequate ventilation, KOH is a strong caustic! If you are unfamiliar with handling chemicals and this process get assistance. School biology teachers or university level biology students are good resources. I have used this for cleaning everything from shrew skeletons to large bear skulls and it results in a disinfected, whitened remains in a short period of time and without drawing scavengers to remains that you have shallow buried.
    • 0
Thanks for the advice, all. Sorry, Whiterose, I don't know why I thought you were the 'body parts' expert.
    • 0
Photo
Autumn Moon
Dec 14 2012 03:59 AM

You will need a "really" big bucket.

J


LOL!
    • 0
Photo
Autumn Moon
Dec 14 2012 04:05 AM

If you have removed as much soft tissue as possible an easy way to remove the remaining material is to put the skeletal remains in water that has a solution of Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) consisting of approximately 10g of this caustic per 100ml of water. The solution is heated but kept below boiling temp. I do this outside or under a fume hood in a lab environment. The time is dependent upon how much soft tissue remains but this process of resomation (chemical cremation) rapidly removes excess water from the bones due to the affinity KOH has with water, sterilizes the remains and destroys the remaining soft tissues including the hard to remove cartilage and ligaments. Do not attempt this procedure without adequate protective glasses, gaunlet style chemical resistant gloves and apron and adequate ventilation, KOH is a strong caustic! If you are unfamiliar with handling chemicals and this process get assistance. School biology teachers or university level biology students are good resources. I have used this for cleaning everything from shrew skeletons to large bear skulls and it results in a disinfected, whitened remains in a short period of time and without drawing scavengers to remains that you have shallow buried.


I never learned that in Uni Bio - not even pre-med bio.

Personally, I would just bury the sucker in a plastic container with light weight sand, wet it down daily, and wait. Obviously, this works best when the weather is hot. This is what worked for the crow I found. When all the tissues were gone (about a month) (oh yes, defeather first), I soaked the bones in hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them and whiten them. Check the bones daily and when white enough, remove from the solution so as not to make the bones too brittle.
    • 0
Photo
Autumn Moon
Dec 14 2012 04:07 AM

Put up good protections, take a gps reading, and get the hell outta dodge :tongue:


But what about the skull!!! ;)
    • 0

I never learned that in Uni Bio - not even pre-med bio.

Personally, I would just bury the sucker in a plastic container with light weight sand, wet it down daily, and wait. Obviously, this works best when the weather is hot. This is what worked for the crow I found. When all the tissues were gone (about a month) (oh yes, defeather first), I soaked the bones in hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them and whiten them. Check the bones daily and when white enough, remove from the solution so as not to make the bones too brittle.


Thank you, Autumn Moon, for the tip about the feathers.

Jevne
    • 0
Photo
CelticGypsy
Dec 14 2012 04:16 AM

If you have removed as much soft tissue as possible an easy way to remove the remaining material is to put the skeletal remains in water that has a solution of Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) consisting of approximately 10g of this caustic per 100ml of water. The solution is heated but kept below boiling temp. I do this outside or under a fume hood in a lab environment. The time is dependent upon how much soft tissue remains but this process of resomation (chemical cremation) rapidly removes excess water from the bones due to the affinity KOH has with water, sterilizes the remains and destroys the remaining soft tissues including the hard to remove cartilage and ligaments. Do not attempt this procedure without adequate protective glasses, gaunlet style chemical resistant gloves and apron and adequate ventilation, KOH is a strong caustic! If you are unfamiliar with handling chemicals and this process get assistance. School biology teachers or university level biology students are good resources. I have used this for cleaning everything from shrew skeletons to large bear skulls and it results in a disinfected, whitened remains in a short period of time and without drawing scavengers to remains that you have shallow buried.



Gosh for me, HoneyThorn is showing her experiance in the natural way of things to give lovely bones, not some chemical man made fal da rah... she touches Natures way, when I'm gifted with animals that I would look at respectfuly with my eyes and touch them , ect.... feeling thier fur or feathers, it's not as a mad scientist.


Regards,
Gypsy
    • 1
In the suburb I live in any carrion that the raccoons, coyotes and bears can smell will be gone on the first night so I am pretty much forced to resort to resomation. I don't think my wife would appreciate it if I brought the remains inside before it was odourless!

Attached is a pic of a bear skull I prepared using the KOH method, a large specimen like this can take a lot of time to clean by natural decomposition or even in a container populated with carrion beetles. The sinus tissues are particularly slow to get rid of without chemical assistance. I hope the picture attachment works, I am doing this on my iPad and having difficulty uploading.

Attached Files

    • 0
Photo
Autumn Moon
Dec 14 2012 04:27 PM

In the suburb I live in any carrion that the raccoons, coyotes and bears can smell will be gone on the first night so I am pretty much forced to resort to resomation. I don't think my wife would appreciate it if I brought the remains inside before it was odourless!

Attached is a pic of a bear skull I prepared using the KOH method, a large specimen like this can take a lot of time to clean by natural decomposition or even in a container populated with carrion beetles. The sinus tissues are particularly slow to get rid of without chemical assistance. I hope the picture attachment works, I am doing this on my iPad and having difficulty uploading.


Nice job. We must have well fed bears,coyotes and raccoons, because they didn't bother with my dead crow at all. On a hot day, the plastic box with sand that was in did smell kinda rank, but it was near the garbage cans, so no one would know. I can understand using some additional cleaning methods for a larger animal, but if one is patient, the same can be achieved without the method you mentioned. It is good information to have, but I don't think I would want the danger of working with those chemicals and processes. But that's just me!
    • 0
Photo
Autumn Moon
Dec 14 2012 04:29 PM

Thank you, Autumn Moon, for the tip about the feathers.

Jevne


You're welcome Jevne.
    • 0
Photo
CelticGypsy
Dec 14 2012 05:22 PM

I never learned that in Uni Bio - not even pre-med bio.

Personally, I would just bury the sucker in a plastic container with light weight sand, wet it down daily, and wait. Obviously, this works best when the weather is hot. This is what worked for the crow I found. When all the tissues were gone (about a month) (oh yes, defeather first), I soaked the bones in hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them and whiten them. Check the bones daily and when white enough, remove from the solution so as not to make the bones too brittle.



I am wondering Autumn Moon, or anybody that would care to weigh in on this : " as not to make the bones too brittle "

Couldn't one just apply vitamin E oil, on the bones to keep them supple and not so brittle ? I did this on my Crow's feet, (the BIRD not my EYES !!!)... ( lolol !)

with a Q-tip, and they turned out rather nice, I was thinking about doing that to the Owl's talons ... I've not had any issues using vitamin E oil, I picked up at the

drug store.....


Regards,
Gypsy
    • 0
I havent done that CG but i can see the benefits to it, good tip.
    • 0
Vit E is ideal for skin but bone becomes brittle through mineral loss. That is accelerated in Hydrogen Peroxide due to the porous nature of bone (don't ever use in the mouth regardless of what the bottle says btw, it ruins teeth for the same reason). I know that bone used to be preserved using bees wax but that will turn them brown. I have read about sealants that are designed for bone preservation on the www, but they would most likely be chemical compounds made in a lab. Still I believe there pretty easy to get. Maybe someone else has specifics on that. Or even some recipes for making them???
    • 0
Photo
Autumn Moon
Dec 14 2012 09:12 PM

I am wondering Autumn Moon, or anybody that would care to weigh in on this : " as not to make the bones too brittle "

Couldn't one just apply vitamin E oil, on the bones to keep them supple and not so brittle ? I did this on my Crow's feet, (the BIRD not my EYES !!!)... ( lolol !)

with a Q-tip, and they turned out rather nice, I was thinking about doing that to the Owl's talons ... I've not had any issues using vitamin E oil, I picked up at the

drug store.....


Regards,
Gypsy


Don't know about oil CelticGypsy, but it may make the bones start to decay and go soft. If I find something on this I'll post it here.

ETA: thought about this more. I am pretty sure it would make the bones soft and rot, because the hydrogen peroxide basically de-fats and dries out the bone and marrow. The dryness of the bone is what helps to preserve it. One might use a oil free varnish to soak the bones in to give it hardness, but I would have to check this out.
    • 0

0 active user(s) (in the past 15 minutes)

0 guests, 0 anonymous users