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Check out these extra bits and pieces from our How To Taxidermy a Squirrel episode -- and be sure to check out our Indiegogo campaign!

Wherein Emily and Anna learn taxidermy from Katie Innamorato, founder of AfterlifeAnatomy! There are a number of significant differences between the art of taxidermy and the preparation of animal specimens for research. Join us as we gut it... together!

Come hang out in our Subreddit:
twitters: @ehmee

Producer, Writer, Creator, Host:
Emily Graslie

Producer, Editor, Camera:
Tom McNamara

Special thanks to Greg Mercer for additional camera and audio help!

Theme music:
Michael Aranda

Created By:
Hank Green

Production Assistant:
Katie Kirby

Filmed on Location and Supported by:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL
Hey guys! We're back in Anna's lab this week to show you a couple steps that didn't make it into the first iteration of how to taxidermy a squirrel, but first I wanted to remind you that we've got an Indiegogo campaign that's running through the end of the month, and we could really use your help and support. I mean, it's a pretty cool project in that, your contribution, or just sharing the video, or whatever, could help build something that will be here for literally a century or more. So if you could just check it out or share it or just give a thumbs up we would really appreciate it.

And now, more squirrels!

(Theme tune)

Emily: Are there brains on this thing?

Katie: Yeah, there might be some starling brains in here. These are my brain scoops for the day. (Emily laughs)

Emily: It seems to me there's like, kind of... three different ways to preserve an animal, and three different objectives. So one, we have this study skin which is used for research. Two, you have like commercially produced mass-manufactured taxidermy, and then there's museum taxidermy, which seems to be the more artistic one.

Katie: Yeah.

Emily: Where do you see yourself, in those three things?

Katie: I like doing a mix of museum stuff - I mean, that's where ultimately I'd really like to be -

Emily: Yeah

Katie: - and doing the commercial stuff too, because when you're doing client work, they really generally don't want anything overly ornate. They just kind of want their animals, either from a hunt or wherever- you know, wherever the animal came from, they just want it for the memory. I really want to start getting into doing weird poses and just like, awkward moments in the animal's life.  A lot of people when they do bears, they make them really aggressive, I love when they're kind of panting, when they just have their little lower jaw just like slightly overhanging like that, so like you can just start to see the teeth.

Emily: When you're talking about recreating these animals kind of after they're gone, not every bear is spending all of its time--

Katie: Oh, yeah, no. 

Emily: --like, grr, like growling just like you said, so I think it's super important to think like, where museums come in with dioramas is that we are trying to capture those individual moments.

Katie: Yeah, those little moments.

Emily: And like, the habitat, and sometimes it's just like, grazing.

Katie: Yeah.

Emily: 'Cause that is probably what that animal spends 90% of its life doing.

Katie: Yeah, yeah.  Definitely.


And then for the eyes, we'll see if the scalpels will be able to handle this foam.  What I like to do is I actually cut this brow off, so now we just want to dig in here so that we can set in her eyes.  And it depends on the eyes we're using too, so like, the bubble eyes, they go in a little bit deeper.  If you're just using black glass beads, they're not gonna go in as deep. 

Emily: What's the difference between a bead eye and a bubble eye?

Katie: These bubble eyes come from a supply company, and they're hand-blown, so you can see the little--

Emily: Oh, okay.

Katie: --the little guy in the back.

Anna: Oh, nice.

Katie: And they kind of have a little bit of a purpley black color, whereas the black glass beads are just, I mean they're jewelry beads, and they're just solid black, and the thing that's nice with these is that you can find them locally and when you're looking at a squirrel, unless you're looking really really close, you're not really gonna see that brown iris that they have, and when you're first learning, it can kinda drive you crazy lining up the pupils, so you can just go solid black and once you get a little bit more advanced, you can go in with doing your iris positioning everything.

Emily: Or you can do like Soon Raccoon and just put rocks in the eyeballs.

Katie: You could use the rocks, yeah. 

Emily: Whatever.

Katie: So we just wanna hollow these out a little bit, and then very carefully with our blade--so if you're using the glass beads, you just want to make sure that your bead holes go up and down vertically so that you don't end up seeing them.

Emily: Oh, gotcha. 

Katie: 'Cause you always see more of an animal's eye in the front and back corners, so we're gonna use the eyelids to cover up those holes.  Yep, so just up and down, straight into the eye socket, just like that.  We can even set it in a little bit deeper, and then you just want to soften up that clay around it to form an eyelid. 

Emily: It gets cute all of a sudden. 

Katie: And you can build a little bit more up top.  The best thing to do when you're doing this is to have reference pictures all over the place, so you can use that to look at to figure out, you know, what eyelid shape and everything.

Anna: So that's, that's kinda crazy.

Katie: It's already starting to look a little bit more like a squirrel.  As soon as you start putting eyes in, everyone gets really really excited.

Anna: A very surprised squirrel.

Emily: He's so cute. 


Anna: So what I'm noticing right now is that like, well, not only is my skin slipping, but also it's really wet and it looks kinda greasy and like, not so pretty.  How do we make it look like a pretty squirrel?

Katie: Like a nice squirrel later? Just continue brushing the fur as you go, just to keep it from getting kinda like ruffled like this. 

Anna: Okay.

Katie: But for these guys, we're just gonna get 'em all sewn up and we'll do the face, and then we'll brush some and fluff 'em up a little bit with some sawdust.

Emily: There's a lot of slack, like, he's not--he could use a little more foam as-- if it's skin--

Katie: You want--you want it to be a little looser, 'cause taxidermy means moving of skin, or movement of skin, so if your form is too large, it's gonna look too inflated--

Emily: Is it like fat?

Katie: --So you want it to be slightly smaller than your skin.  So what I like to do is you gotta find the corner of your mouth, so you can see on the skin it's right about here, and then let's line this up on our form so it's like right about down here.  Put the modeling tool, so now we are tucking our lips down into our form.  Alright. 

Emily: Okay.

Katie: So we can bend your guy a little bit.  So I like to do a pin in each corner. 

Anna: So, so I wanna put this pin in the corner of the mouth?

Katie: Yep, mm-hmm.

Anna: What does that do?

Katie: So this, you push the skin down to those slots that we made, but we also want to just make sure that they stay there while they dry.  So we're just keeping these pins in here to hold the skin in here.

Anna: So the skin is underneath the pin?

Katie: Mm-hmm.

Anna: Okay.

Katie: So we're just doing this so that it stays in place as it dries. 

Anna: Kids, this is what it's like to get facial piercings.

Katie: Right now, because these guys had a couple bald spots or slippage spots, I'm just kinda folding the skin over those bald spots, so that we don't end up seeing them. 

Emily: It's just beauty--beauty tips and tricks.

Katie: Yeah, just, just fixing them up a little bit. 

Emily: I think he looks pretty good now.

Katie: Yeah, right?  He looks--he looks pretty much like a squirrel. 

Emily: Yeah.

Anna: Pretty much.

Katie: Right?

Emily: Step final step is finishing touches. 

Katie: Grooming.

Emily: Grooming.  With a hairdryer.

Katie: Yep.  Alright--

Emily: And a brush.

Katie: So we want it on either low or no heat.

Emily: Okay.

Katie: And then you can start blow drying it, and you always just want to kind of back brush it very gently.  We're not brushing too much, but we're basically just lifting the fur up away from the form.

Emily: So, uh, you seein' anybody or?  This is--this seems like the--I feel a beautician.  But I don't know any beauticians who have blow dried a dead squirrel.

Katie: A dead squirrel.

(Endscreen plays)

Emily: It still has brains on it.