People are naturally fascinated with snakes. With over 250 types of snakes worldwide, who wouldn’t be fascinated with them? Some ethnic tribes in Africa venerate some snakes such as pythons, Indians simply idolize them, and Americans keep them as pets. This fascination drove many people to want to keep snakes, or at least to preserve their skin. So do you want to know how to preserve snake skin?
How to Preserve Snake Skin
Skinning a snake for the purpose of tanning its hide is pretty straightforward, but it requires skill and patience. The skin-removal process can be done smoothly within 10-15 minutes, but the tanning process can take several days – depending on your preservation technique. You will also make use of several chemicals and cutting implements as well as containers during the process. But it is delightful to do once you master the art. Let’s start with what you might need:
Basic requirements for preserving snake skin
Here are some of the basic items you require to skin and preserve a snake:
- Pure glycerine and alcohol
- Big pickle jar
- Cutting board
- Razor blade or scalpel
- Sharp knife
- Spoon or butter knife
- Rack for drying things
It should be noted that the set of items you will use largely depends on your skinning and preservation methods. To that end, we shall examine one or two major techniques for preserving a dead snake’s skin. Let’s take the steps one after the other.
Skin your snake to remove its dermis
With a steady hand, place the dead snake on the cutting board. You must be very certain that the snake is completely dead – because dead snakes can still bite! Believe it or not, but it’s true. Some tanners even recommend cutting off the head of the snake completely to be on the safe side. It’s your choice. Just be double sure that the creature is dead for good. And in case you want to skin it from the head, you must avoid its fangs because an accidental prick could be fatal.
If you want to skin the snake with its head, use a razor blade or scalpel to cut the chin of the snake under its head. Be sure to cut deep enough only to separate the skin from the muscles of the lower jaw and any other connective tissues. Then use a sharp knife to make an incisive cut from the neck of the snake down to its belly and tail. Once this is done, gently take both sides of the loose flesh on the snake’s chin and pull up to its head; and then pull the thick skin of the reptile – while holding down the exposed flesh with one hand – from its head down to its tail.
After stripping the skin from the snake’s flesh, you must use a spoon to scrape away any remaining loose flesh from the inner side of the creature. Work your way from the head to the tail, and be sure to use a spoon or butter knife so that you will not cut or puncture the skin.
Preserve the snake skin in a jar
When you are done removing the excess meat and fat from the insides of the snake, you must roll it up and place it inside a big pickle jar. The jar must contain your mixture of pure glycerine and high-quality Isopropyl alcohol. Allow the snake skin to sink completely below the surface of the chemical solution. Then put a lid on the container. It is important to mix the glycerine and alcohol in equal measures before fully submerging the snake inside it in the jar.
Leave the skin to remain completely soaked in the jar for up to three days. After three days, bring out the skin and use your butter knife of spoon to scrape away any loose meat until the insides of the snake is completely clean. Then apply a general dose of glycerine on the insides and outside of the skin once more and set it out to dry on a rack. After 24 hours, you can clean the skin again thoroughly with a damp cloth to remove any excess skin still hanging on to the main skin.
Done this way, your snake skin is ready for storage and you can simply pack it as you see fit.
Now, you have mastered how to preserve snake skin like a pro. But wait up; there is another technique that does not require the use of glycerine and alcohol. Let’s check it out.
Another method to preserve your snake skin – salting
After skinning the snake and removing the dermis from its flesh, instead of dipping the skin into a jar of glycerine and alcohol solution, you must apply salt liberally to the insides of the skin first. You must leave abundant salt in the fleshed-out skin for 2-3 days, then remove the salt and put out the skin to dry on a rack where there is no direct sunlight.
You can also put the snake skin directly into a large container containing vinegar and salt solution to enable it pickle – this can also be done for frozen snakes after the skinning. The skin should remain fully submerged in the vinegar and salt solution for 2-3 days to pickly and tan. This way, your preserved snake skin will last longer after it is taken out to dry and stored. In case there are scales still visible after the drying process, simply use a bristle brush to remove them or apply a safe descaling method to do it in order to give your skin a beautiful look.
Do you know you can oil your preserved skin after tanning to give it a more polished appearance? Well, you could. You could mix Pro-Plus (PP-301) with hot water and then use a brush to rub the solution onto the outer side of the skin to achieve a polished sheen. Allow the oiled skin to dry in the open for 3-4 hours before displaying your polished snake skin for sale – or storage. The well-preserved snake skin can be used for leather and other related craft.