Caution: This blog contains graphic images such as, but not limited to, animal blood, gore, visible muscles and organs, and dismemberment. All of the dead animals I work with are found in nature and ethically obtained. I have not and will not kill any animals for my collection, nor do I sponsor the killing of animals for the purposes of collecting. Enjoy!
My name is Rachel. 24. bone collector, nature lover, and student from Virginia.
Wish to contact me? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much for your kind words <3 it means a lot. I shall certainly give a big update when I get my new place set up with all of my lovelies :)
This is by no means a be-all end-all guide but I just pulled a few of the highlights from the guide I’m working on to share for the anon that asked earlier.
Everyone has their own way of cleaning dead things and I always encourage experimenting with various methods to find what works best for you. These are methods and things I’ve found personally useful.
First off, respect the law! Conservation laws are in place for a reason and it is our duty as responsible collectors and nature enthusiasts to respect them. In the US all songbirds, birds of prey, and pretty much all native bird species are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and you cannot legally possess any part of them. Same goes for all sea mammals which are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. And then there is CITES which covers all endangered species like great apes, pandas, tigers, great white sharks and so on. It’s a good idea to familiarized yourself with the species on their list.
The US also has very strict laws about exporting and importing wildlife to and from other countries. You need a license and permits to export wildlife parts and you also need to go through a USDA approved import facility and fill out the proper paper work with US Fish & Wildlife to import it legally, otherwise you could be prosecuted for illegal smuggling. So that awesome deal you see on eBay for that skull in Indonesia or Africa? Purchasing it legally is not as easy as clicking But It Now. And unfortunately most of those skulls—especially from Indonesia and China—are from poached and protected species.
Individual states have their own laws too so either check out The Green Wolf’s fantastically helpful site here or contact your local wildlife resource agency. For example, in some states possessing black bear and cougar parts is illegal. And some states allow collecting roadkill while in others you need a permit to do so and in others still it is completely illegal and will get you fined if you attempt it.
If you live in a state where collecting roadkill is legal then you will want to keep a roadkill collecting kit in your car. I always have mine stocked with gloves, trash bags and other smaller plastic bags, a bucket with a lid for anything especially gross I might encounter, alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer, and good sharp knives.
Practice basic road safety when stopping to collect roadkill. Put your flashers on so other drivers can see you, don’t stop in an area with heavy traffic or in any area that you don’t feel safe, don’t accidentally lock yourself out of your car, and so on.
Lonely country roads are excellent places to find roadkill to collect and I also enjoy scavenging in woods, pastures, ravines, and around any body of water, especially creeks and rivers where things can wash in from miles around with flood waters.
If you plan on exploring and hunting for bones in nature practice basic outdoor safety. Wear bright colored clothing so you won’t be mistaken for wild game by hunters, respect Private Property and No Trespassing signs, take a friend with you especially if you are going into unfamiliar territory, keep your phone with you, make sure someone knows where you are going and how long you plan to stay, use bug spray (Deep Woods OFF is my favorite), wear good shoes/boots, and I always wear jeans to keep from being mauled by briars and barbed wire.
Use all your senses when scavenging. Look for disturbances in the leaf litter or blood or fur and you might find the remains of a predator’s kill. Watch for buzzards too! They can lead you to some cool finds! Listen for the buzz of flies and follow your nose if you catch of whiff of decay on the breeze. And hunt around for quiet, tucked away places where an animal might feel safe eating a meal or crawling off to die.
Once you find an awesome dead thing then you want to clean it! Most diseases carried by wild animals die off shortly after the animal’s death but it is still important to wear gloves and wash your hand thoroughly with hot soapy water after handling any part of a dead animal.
Check out my FAQ page for some bone cleaning tips! I’d add it here but this is turning into a novel already.
Supplies I always have on hand for cleaning:
Hydrogen Peroxide (for whitening bones; 3% solution is what I use)
Baking Soda (I’ll make a paste with this and peroxide to use for whitening larger skulls some times)
Dawn Dish Soap (for degreasing)
Latex or Vinyl Disposable Gloves
Plastic buckets, totes, coffee cans, and various other containers
Scalpels and or X-acto knives
Various other scrubber brushes
Protective Eyewear (if you plan on drilling bone)
Face Mask or Ventilator (also if you plan on drilling bone; face mask is a good idea if there is a risk of inhaling hair or dirt while cleaning)
Fish Tank Heater or other heat source for buckets (for maceration and degreasing)
If the smell of decay turns your stomach keep some vapor rub on hand to dab under your nose while you work.
Be extremely careful while working with knives and dead things. Even professionals that have been doing this for years have accidents so you really can’t be too careful. If you do cut yourself clean it immediately and watch it closely for signs of infections (redness, inflammation, hot to touch, ooziness, etc). If you see of any of these signs seek medical attention immediately and don’t be afraid to tell them what happened. You know they’ve encountered stranger things than a taxidermist/bone cleaner cutting themselves with a gunky knife.
So yeah. There you go. Hope that was helpful! Keep an eye out for my bone collecting and cleaning guide that I’ll hopefully ready to sell soon! It will be even more comprehensive and cover cleaning and such in greater detail. :)
Reblogging for anyone looking for a quick easy guide to beginning bone collecting :)