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Wherein Mr. Wolf and Mr. Coyote both lose their skin.
For more information on the how, what and why, check out our video: “Wolves can be Coy” → https://youtu.be/oA-QINoEEwQ

These specimens were obtained from a state wildlife management organization and are being processed for the research collection at The Field Museum in Chicago.
Here’s more about where/how we get specimens for our collections: https://youtu.be/nS8suhK-c5I

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Producer, Writer, Creator, Host:
Emily Graslie

Producer, Director, Editor, Graphics:
Brandon Brungard

Producer, Editor, Graphics:
Sheheryar Ahsan

Production Assistant: Laurel Tilton

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This episode is supported by and filmed on location at:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL

(http://www.fieldmuseum.org)
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So in our last video we talked about the history of wolves and coyotes in the United States and how our understanding about them changes with new science and research. We went into a lot of detail and it's super exciting stuff so if you haven't seen that video yet make sure you go watch it now.

But if you're still here we're about to get into some pretty graphic material. That's right electrical supplies but, no seriously if blood and skinning isn't your thing now is time to click away. You met Tom Gnoske in our other video he's an assistant Collections Manager and taxidermist here at the Field Museum and a few months ago he invited me to help him skin both a coyote and a wolf so I would be able to see the similarities and differences between the two up close. We'll switch between them in the video so watch for the little coyote and wolf icons. These specimens legally came to us from a  State Wildlife Management Agency so no we did not kill them. We're preparing them to be housed in our research collection. We don't use gloves during the prep process because it's easier to get a handle on the material and feel what you're doing and with gloves it's pretty slippery and the risk of cutting yourself is actually greater.  The sawdust is just for soaking up blood.

And we needed an extra set of hands so we enlisted to help of Kaylie Kufner she's a collections assistant and works in the bird division and is also a super skill taxidermist. So let's start with the coyote.

Tom: And you can see that interface of the fascia and because you're putting pressure on it...

Emily: It just peels off.

T:And then when you get down to the toes we're gonna go down to this last digit and and then from the inside we're going to cut through the cartilage there so that this-

E: Through that last finger bone.  I don't think people think about that a lot like how our fingernails are attached on our last digit here so when you want a declawed cat or an animal you're cutting that off and so you're kind of leaving them with shortened fingers.

Kaylie: Little nubs.

E: Yeah, little nubs.

T: On your side okay in and then on Kaylee's side maybe I can actually help with that while she's...

E: You don't think about all of these connections you know it's all just like pulley and lever systems made out of squishy biological material.

T: Yeah.

E: That's, WHOA!

T:There you go.

E: You guys I see these little bones that I was talking about?  They're like they're embedded within the tissue they're not really articulated with anything but they fit on top of the ridges of the digit bones and it's really well lubricated and it helps with that efficiency or they go boo boo. That's a scientific sound effect. We're on our way to the butt! You don't need to keep the butthole intact? This is a serious question, it is a diagnostic feature for anything? I don't I don't...

T: I can't answer that. I don't think so but.

K: I don't think anyone's specifically studying butts.

E: Well I was, I was thinking okay like like anal glands, you know, I guess other ways that animals communicate in anal gland by secretions is a big part of that and so maybe somebody would need to know the circumference of the butthole. I'm just not ruling anything out here, keeping an open mind.

T: Yeah I am a good, every question is a good question

E: Back in Montana when we skinned that wolf we didn't really know what we were going to use the pelt for but we knew we wanted to keep the pelt and this is different because you're not making any kind of direct cut it's not like you're bisecting it or splitting in half but instead we're able to make a few more minor cuts on the outside like along the back of the legs into the back of the tail and then essentially invert it like pull it off of the rest of the body without having to make a split down the midline or down the back and the reason that I'm doing the face while tom is working on the legs is because by the time you would get all of the skin off down towards the face the face has so many particular delicate details that you really want to keep intact like the eyelids and the tear ducts and the ears and the lips, and if all of that skin is just hanging down and you're essentially looking up into an inverted skin of a mammal you're not able to see what you're doing, and it's actually a lot easier and it's more efficient. So when we were in Montana it took us the better part of eight hours to skin a single wolf.

Tom is it safe to say you could do this kind of process with most large predators like large- a big cat or a lion or a tiger or something like that or hyena anything kind of of that size with that sort of head it doesn't have antlers or horns you could just do a case skin in a similar way?

T: Absolutely.

E: Okay. Whoops, he's bleedin. I need a bucket.

T: And it is ok if it bleeds on the floor as long as it doesn't get all over your shoes. There's times on the train I'm going home at night when done wolves all day and you end up, you smell like-

E: Like dog .

T: And then you can tell people are looking around like.

E: Like "what is that?" that's going to be me today on the train on the way home, with blood on my shoes and probably like crusty bloody hands or something so I'm going to... something I think I murdered somebody.

You can see here exactly where lips are connected to the jawbone.  You can even see where that blood vessels coming through out of what's a foramen right here which is a little hole in the bone. Cut that off. You have to go really slow along the face because there's not a lot of margin of error. There is no, there's not a lot of muscle between the bone and the skin and so you want to make sure that you cut just parallel to the bone in order to remove all of that skin. This is a pretty crazy visual.

T: Isn't it? That's the best.

E:  Am I doing this right?

T: Mhm.

E: Okay.

T: Yes now you could just...

E: Wow! I'm always surprised and amazed by how intuitive it seems. You know it's it's almost like it just the anatomy gives you a roadmap for where to go.

T: It could also be that it's genetically hardwired into your genome to know this because at some point everybody, every one of your ancestors at some point was doing this, right?

E: And I think that's what I what I like about doing this on the Brain Scoop is that it is so counterintuitive to to what people think. I mean it's something that it is a novelty now. It is something that happens only in the confines of museums and research institutions and for hunters and that type of thing. I like I don't even think about the fact that I'm practically kissing this thing right here. It's like oh hello, what a visual and then just, it's face comes out. I made that special effect.  It didn't actually, it doesn't sound like that. But that is wild. You can just see how everything lines up and then... the layers beneath.  That looks diabolical.

T: Yeah.

E: And you can even feel the back of the skull right here, that sagittal crest where all of these muscles are attaching to it.  You can feel it on the back of-but you don't have one.  You can feel it on your dog's head.  Because when I first started doing this I remember being so fascinated by the process and removing the skin and seeing what's underneath and I remember I went home that day and didn't want to talk about it because I thought if I did I'd sound crazy. Like I thought if I was seen as enjoying uh this kind of natural exploration of anatomy or whatever that, that it would be seen really negatively or like indicative of like what a serial kill would enjoy or something and then I realized I just liked Natural History.  And there's, there's nothing demonic about it.

T: Right.

E: We're going to string this rope through the back of its Achilles tendons and then we're going to hang it up in order to take advantage of gravity in pulling down the rest of the skin since we've already got it started on this back end and then it's just going to be going around and around removing its skin. That good?

T: Perfect.  Excellent.

E: Okay. Wow, got its testes in my face. Wow you guys smell that?Jeez! What is that just it's Musk or..

T: Yeah, I think so.

E: Et smells like, it smells skunky-like but, but almost like with a urine smell.

T: Yeah.

E: And like I don't know, it's got a spicy sort of aroma. Oh my god it's not going to be easy. Okay. I should have taken a ship class where they teach you how to tie knots. I should have been in the boy scouts. Oh no.

T: Yeah it's gonna be fine.

E: Is that gonna be okay?

T: Yeah

E: Oh wow.

T: Good.

E: oh I need to do some upper body- wow this is a great view.

T: So we're gonna just cut, you're gonna cut around this here

E: Oh I see, so cut underneath the baculum

T: Yeah.

E: Which our viewers know is the penis bone. There we go. Ah he's free. 

Seems like a really weird game show competition. Who can skin the canid the fastest?

T: Well I've got like 70 of them. I think that's a great idea we should.. do it.

E: Oh yeah.

K: Have a pizza party and skin some wolves.

E: Come on out people, break the record time! Look at, look at this gaping cavity, sorry. Do you see that?

K: Whoa

E: That's just a massive hole.

Whoops. I'm sorry.

So here we have it. We have our coyote and we have our timber wolf and what I really like about this is that we don't know. We don't know how they're going to be used. We don't know if coyotes and wolves will be extirpated from the United States, we don't know what the populations are going to look like 50 or 100 years from now, but they'll have this information-future scientists-to learn about what they were doing now, today, at this point in time.  Thanks Museums.