Saturday, September 26, 2009

Skinning A Copperhead Snake

Before I get started on this project, I just want to say that this was my first time skinning a snake and was a learning process. I will link to more professional instructions at the bottom of this post.Last night my neighbor be-headed a copperhead snake - since I didn't find out till this afternoon I was not able to use the snake meat for eating but still wanted to take the opportunity to utilize the skin. Check out that length (that's me looking all haggard & averting my eyes while holding it by the tail) - not too bad for a male copperhead! Below is the process I followed to skinning the snake, if you have any experience or advice please feel free to chime in using the comments section.
REMINDER: * If you come in contact with a venomous snake DO NOT attempt to kill it, nearly all snake bites in America are due to people trying to kill the snake, the human may miss their mark but the snake never will. This instruction is not for killing snakes, but for using a snake already found dead either by hitting it in the road, having been killed by your pet, or hit by a mower, etc. Have respect for nature and don't kill what you don't need.*
STEP ONE: I laid the snake out on some clean paper, after having washed it off under running water. Snakes may carry salmonella so it's best to create an easy to clean surface before operating.
STEP TWO: This snake had been dead since the night before so it was probably a little more stiff then one freshly deceased. Most skinning instructions tell you to use a sharp knife, but there was no knife in my house sharp enough to cut with (and i tried them all), so I used hair cutting scissors. Scissors seem to be way easier with a cleaner cut.
The head was already chopped off this one, if yours still has a head chop it off. You then start from that chopped part of the neck and cut your way down to the tail following the middle of the belly. (The belly is the bottom soft part of the snake that it slithers on.) You are only cutting the skin, don't push your knife or scissors into the organs, especially if your snake is fresh and you want to eat the meat after. It's easy to see how to do this since the skin is somewhat loose to begin with.
STEP THREE: The copperhead had some fatty membrane stuff sticking to the skin. I took my knife and simply pushed through this membrane on both the right and left sides of the skin. This part was a little harder then I thought it would be, I had to really work it- plus get over touching tons of smelly slime. Once you get this sticky membrane loose on both sides, the skin will be ready to peal.
STEP FOUR: Peeling it is actually as easy as they say, I grabbed both the top right and left sides and just went ahead and pulled back. You may have to pull hard at first to get it going, but then it comes right off "just like a sock" or like "taking off pajamas", and any other weird analogy I heard about it. (See pics above and below.)

STEP FIVE: You are now left with the snake skin. Mine still had goo-y stuff at the very edges which I tried peeling and washing off under running water. I am not sure if this is correct but I could not seem to get it all off. What I read is the skin should be clean and have nothing on it anymore.
Up top is the outside of the copperhead skin, and below is what the inside of the skin looks like. Amazing how it's not pigmented on the inside- since that would not serve any purpose in nature.
LAST STEP: I pinned it to cardboard with straight pins and placed on top a warm dry surface. It's pinned backwards so you can see what it looks like, but I am told for it to dry best you pin the white side facing up and the pretty side down (the opposite of how it's pictured below)- then rub it with salt to preserve it.
If you want to know if I was grossed out, I can tell you this - holding a dead snake feels very strange, basically just like they feel when they are alive. You can feel every movement of the spine in your hands but it's not as slimy as it seems it would be. The snake had a slightly foul smell, but I think it was from the length of time that passed since it died. What I did to not feel queasy or sicked out while touching it, was not think any thoughts. :)

Read more on skinning snakes HERE. For skinning snakes to eat, go HERE.



Bort said...

yep yer awesome

Leslie wears organic clothing and plays in dirt said...

Thanks Bort :)

As an update on the snake skin- the whole thing seems to dry really well overnight in front a fan - except a few small spots on the very edges (where the belly was opened) still seemed to have some blop on it- the blop doesnt dry right. So when they say to scrap all that junk off, they really mean it. Just make sure it's not too thick in those areas- it still will be slimy though before drying.
Another thing to note- peal the skin off the drying surface carefully, mine got slightly brittle at the thin end of the tail and ripped a lil'.

Lou Cheese said...

I can't help with the dull knives, but here's a super easy way to keep your scissors sharp-just take a regular sheet of aluminum foil and start cutting it up with the scissors. I know it sounds crazy, but it works. I learned about it from one of my fellow bike restoration enthusiasts.

Leslie wears organic clothing and plays in dirt said...

Mr. Cheese! If that trick works you are going to be my new personal jesus... i have been trying figure out how to sharpen scissors for my entire life!

Cassandra said...

That is cruel and wrong it was minding its own business just as god an-tented but you still felt the urge to kill it.There for you should be ashamed of your self.

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Cassandra -
i didn't kill this snake, someone else did and i found it the next day be-headed and skinned it.

Maybe you didn't read the post, but went straight into judgement. That's where the real shame lies in all things human.

Cassandra said...

Sorry its my mis judgement i feel strongly about the protection of animals but that gives me no right to judge.My apologizes.

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

thanks, no need to apologize.
I feel very strongly about animals, and our entire eco-system - my whole life is about living, but living in a way that causes as little harm as possible to all that is here.
So we are on the same team. :)

Cassandra said...

I am the same way by trying to cause as little harm as possible.I feel humans are reliable for the earths well being for its are pleasure and we should treat it as such.So indeed we are on the same team thanks for understanding:)

Anonymous said...

I kill every copper head I see. So far 5 this year.