Steps for Cleaning a Small Animal Skull 

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Artists, hunters, and outdoors lovers have been collecting and preserving animal skulls for centuries. Once cleaned of their soft tissue and left clean and bare, skulls are a timeless source of wonder. This is a piece of the body that gives insight into how an animal has evolved, what they have been evolved for. Of course, before you can admire that beauty of a bone, first you must get it cleaned. The following is a look at the key steps for cleaning a small animal skull so that you can enjoy it in your study, classroom, or elsewhere:

  1. Check your local regulations. First things first, you must make sure it’s legal to possess the skull and any other bones of a given animal as it is illegal to possess any parts of certain animals — even if you came by the skull walking in the woods. For example, it is illegal to possess any bones from the bald legal and certain other bird species outlined in the migratory bird act. In most cases, a skull that might be illegal to take when found can be taken when killed during the hunting season on a permit. 
  2. Use dermestid beetles. Dermestid beetles are incredible insects that will fully eat dead flesh and soft tissue, leaving behind nicely cleaned bones. Using dermestid beetles to remove dead flesh offers key benefits like leaving no unpleasant odors and keeping the bone structures fully intact (other methods like boiling and sharp tools often destroy delicate bones like those in the nose).
  3. Soak in enzyme-bleach powder. Never use liquid bleach to clean skulls. Rather, once the dermestid beetles have left as clean a skull as possible, soak it in a mixture of 3/4 enzyme-bleach powder to one gallon of water for three days. 
  4. Use tweezers and a syringe for the last cleaning. For any lingering tissues, use a syringe to push through hit water and tweezers to pull away any stubborn items.
  5. Finish with white glue paint. Allow the skull to fully dry and then use a diluted white glue to paint over the skull. This will help prevent excessive cracking and serve as a great DIY preservative. Glue is especially great for filling in teeth cracks to prevent future fracturing.