Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Project Fail: Skinning A (roadkill) Opossum

WARNING: The following post is graphic, with graphic photos of a poor wittle opossum who was killed by a dog on the side of the road. I attempted to skin it's fur, so it wouldn't be entirely wasted.Remember the opossum I found dead during the epic snow storm here last week? Well, gross at it may be to some people I felt so strongly about not wanting his death to be a total waste I picked up his heavy frozen body, placed it in a plastic bag and carried him to my house. When the possum thawed out I decided it was time to try and skin the fur. I took some string and hung it up by it's two back feet to prepare for skinning. I could not find a really decent instructional video online about skinning an opossum so I had to rely on sketches and word of mouth. Also, this is the first time I have skinned an animal (except for the copperhead snake), so as always was a difficult learning process with some major FAILS!

Two Things You MUST have for Skinning:::
  • An awesome sharp as hell knife,made for skinning (I didn't have this)
  • Rope to hang it up and hold it in place
The first thing I did was cut complete circles around it's ankles, then a line down the inside of the leg (that part was easy). Then I saw the genitals & butt -at this point I realized a few things which were going to make this project hard for me...
1. My knife sucked, it is imperative you have a very sharp skinning knife (otherwise the gross factor and accidental punctures are in high frequency).
2. The COLD! It was freezing freaking cold out, so cold that the animal's fat was all sticking/congealed and the skin was tougher to pull.
3. I could not cut by the anus. I have anus issues. I had to eventually cut a big circle around the whole tail, balls, anus area because something green emerged from the anus, terrifying me.... and i was all alone out there with a dull knife.

When the green stuff emerged I lost my ability to deal with the project and had to step away. For a few days. Working up a plan and nerve to go back to it- the 30 degree weather kept the poor half cut thing well refrigerated till I came back to him with full resolve to finish what I started.
I PULLED! And pulled! Just like i was told to do, trying as hard as i could to peal off the skin. I pulled so hard I heard the wood beam I hung it from cracking and i nearly lifted my feet off the ground using full body weight.
I Pulled More! It pealed a little, mostly along the back - the belly was rock hard with fat. Out of fear I was going to rip down the porch beam and was a little defeated by my own lack of strength I had to stop.
I decided to accept my fail, and cut a small piece of the soft fur off it's back that was good, so that I can watch the process of drying (just to learn from it!)
I cut him down finally, and put the rest of his body to rest - and then took the skin off to the side to de-fat it.
When the skin is pulled off it has excess fat that has to be scraped off - which in the freezing cold outside is not too easy. I was told though getting rid of the fat makes the "leather" more pliable. (This is without tanning it after either - which I wasnt ready to do the non toxic way... with brains.)
I scraped it best I could with my shitty knife, and hung it up outside. I look forward to seeing how it dries and oh please gawd someone tell me this is easier when the circumstances are right!!!


linda said...

You are the definition of brave for attempting this on your own!

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

Thanks Linda -
I really did want help, but the person i asked would almost barf when i brought it up. ;)
Something I thought about while doing this is how amazing it is that people wear and use so much leather, and really (including myself) never had a clue what it takes to get it from animal to pair of shoes. I dont buy leather products new anyway, only thrifted- mainly cause they are chemical treated, but also imagining this skinning process on a mass scale /manufacturing sort of level, is. well... really disgusting.

**I also want to note, i think skinning a rabbit or another animal which has less fat may be easier.

Gratuitous said...

How would any dead animal be a "total waste?" Ohhh... you must mean a total waste for humans! Because as for the rest of nature, nothing - not one single cell - of a deceased animal is wasted. Every little speck goes back to mother nature somehow. Of course, you know that, and are more loving than most. But once in awhile, I think it's important to remind ourselves that while we may be the most powerful species to ever exist on this planet, we aren't exactly, um, more "entitled' than any other species that just wants to live and procreate, and we often do more harm than good just because we... can. So yeah, kill it if you're hungry, and wear it if you're cold, but please don't think that if you don't use it, nobody (or nothing) will find use for it. Death always makes way for life.

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

Thanks for pointing that out- it's interesting because I once knew this lady who had alot of awesome fruit trees, she was a hippy with a wee bit of OCD and had been to India and seen starving children. For some reason her life led her to feel like she was supposed to not "waste" anything. I would help her gather peaches under the tree and I remember being confused by the fact that she would be gathering even slimey rotten, molded, bug infested peaches. I finally asked her about it and she said"i have seen people starving for food I cant let this go to waste!" ... i immediately thought about how it could not be a waste, because all the bugs & animals were eating it too, plus it would rott and help fertilize the tree, and the seeds could start new trees to plant elsewhere.
In the case of the opossum, this too is true- it really never would be a total waste- only a waste that we didnt get to use it...
for me i thought it would be a waste to not use the fur for something, especially having it non toxic. But nature didn't give a shit about any of that anyway, and so I only got one small piece.
Thanks for the reminder!!! xo

Gratuitous said...

Free shipping! Stay warm, Leslie.


Leslie's Gone Oko said...


that blanket would take like 20-30 roadkill opossums! I cant believe how much it costs. I dont like the fur industry at all- raising them to skin them is sick- when there is so much meat production in the world, we should have plenty enough leather and fur from that- without breeding and raising animals to kill for it. Same goes for feathers or any of those items which piss vegans off.
While I am not vegetarian anymore, I am not into mass manufacturing either. (Except maybe for toaster ovens and hot plates.) ;)

Bort said...

That makes me wanna fuckin puke!!You best clean off that fat you left on the porch or im never commin back home

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Oh cool, i know how to repel you now. :)

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