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MLA Full: "How to Taxidermy a Squirrel." YouTube, uploaded by thebrainscoop, 25 March 2015,
MLA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2015)
APA Full: thebrainscoop. (2015, March 25). How to Taxidermy a Squirrel [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2015)
Chicago Full: thebrainscoop, "How to Taxidermy a Squirrel.", March 25, 2015, YouTube, 13:11,
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!

P.S. We are launching a super-secret project April 6th - stay tuned!

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

English captioning provided by Martina S.! High-five, Martina!


EMILY: Hey, we're here with Katie Innamorato who is a taxidermy artist and Anna Goldman mammal's prep lab manager, and me.

Today we're going to learn how to taxidermy some squirrels. You're a taxidermist, Katie, how is that different from what Anna does?

KATIE: So, when you're doing, uh, taxidermy, there's just a couple extra steps you have to go in. There's a little bit more prep work, um, we have to go in, we have to uh, split your lips, you have to split your eyelids, you have to turn your ears inside out, you have to go all the way to to the last knuckle on each of your toes. So it's just a little more tedious to prep your hide properly so you can tuck it on your form later.

ANNA: What I do is just surround a cotton form with wires in the hand and wires in the tail. It's much more simplistic, it dries naturally, and it's really just so scientists can look at it and identify color patterns, fur thickness, um, different locality data, that kind of stuff. So it's, it's got nothing to do with these guys.

[Katie laughing]

EMILY: Ultimately, like the difference between like a taxidermy mount and a museum study mount is the museum studies are going to be use for research and the taxidermy things you are literally trying to breathe life back into the shape of the animal.


EMILY: Like you're giving it fake eyeballs, you're giving it a realistic pose.

KATIE: Body shape too.

EMILY: Yeah.

[organ music plays and stops]

EMILY: Step number one: find some dead squirrels.


EMILY: Where, where did these guys come from?

KATIE: These guys are all from road kill so they've got a little bit of trauma going on.

ANNA: They had some concrete surgery done.

KATIE: Yeah. [laughs]

EMILY: Anna's has some of it's intestines blowing out of its leg.

ANNA: We have an intestinal pocket in the leg. The we could, uh just keep going and going.

EMILY: Oh. That's disgusting.

[Katie continues laughing]

ANNA: But let's. Will just put that back in there.

EMILY: But the squirrels are all okay, I mean there not. I mean they're mess up, I uh.

ANNA: This is not okay. This is just not okay.

EMILY: But uh. His jaw, His mandible is in the outside of his face.

KATIE: All of them have that going on.

EMILY: Yeah wow uh that guy, uh uh uh. That makes my mouth hurt. Um yeah.

[Katie continues giggling]

EMILY: So anyway, we're going to breathe some life back into these critters.

KATIE: So first step is I like to have the specimen facing me uh cus you always wanna try to cut with the direction of the fur.

ANNA: Okay.

KATIE: And these guys have some long fur so what you want to try to do is make a little bit of a seam so that we don't end up cutting  any fur so we can use our fingers other wise I have wire brushes. We can use those to help card our fur.

EMILY: Automatically this is a little bit different than anything that I have ever done. Is...

ANNA: Yeah this is like uh. We are being a lot nicer typically to the specimen. Not that we're like totally mean or terrible [Katie giggles] but uh mostly we take our measurements and then we just slice the belly so  we kinda, we kinda start on the other side. We probably start here because when  we make our stitches it's belly side down for our study skins so we don't want the stitch to  be as visible but also color pattern up here is really important and a lot more  distinctive so stitching there make skew with the data, so to say.

[organ music plays and stops]

ANNA: The spine it totally shattered so uh. [Emily laughs] So my line is a little crooked.

KATIE: Yeah that's fine. So I like to start my incision. I'm not sure how you guys usually do it,  I hold the blade upside down, I just do a puncture and then I just kind of slide the blade up from the underside of the skin. [Anna laughs]

EMILY: This is totally different.

ANNA: You're crazy. This is madness.

KATIE: So you don't cut the fur, that's the big thing. So you're just kinda gently wiggling the blade around under the skin to cut it.

EMILY: So normally what we would do is not, this is literally everything is doing backwards. Instead of going on the belly with the blade like this, we're going on the back with the blade like this.

ANNA: I feel like I am using my left hand.

KAITE: Really?

EMILY: I feel like I'm learning. I feel like I'm learning.

ANNA: [mocking] I feel like I'm learning.

EMILY: No, that came out weird. [Katie laughs] Yeah, oh, his brains are coming out of the back of his head.

KATIE: And now we can just start peeling the skin down the back.

[jaunty, old timey music plays]

EMILY: So where are we at with these guys now Anna. How is your squirrel looking over there? [Katie laughs]

ANNA: You can see, this is the femur and the pelvis is totally shattered so the pelvis would be right here and yeah that is actually completely split so that the pelvis is there and these are the guts my fingers now in the guts.

EMILY: So what do we need to do in order to actually mount these guys?

KATIE: For taxidermy purposes you only use the skin and that's something that a lot of people um are not aware of or kind of get confused with.

[film reel clicking] Old school taxidermist, they would use the bones they would clean them and add wire to them for more structure and they'd make armatures using the skeletons that way, but the commercial guys and traditional guys nowadays buy commercially made forms um. So you only need to use the skin. Let's see if we can get this to go. I like to cradle the back end as much as I can just so I have a firm grip on the animal and get that meat off my hands. I like to use my index finger for support underneath.

EMILY: Mmmhmmm

KATIE: And then I use my thumb nail to kinda get in here and just slide. So my  guy was easier than yours.


KATIE: So just grab it with a dry paper towel. [laughs]

EMILY: This is his tail. UH that pulled off of his body. [Katie continues laughing] It wasn't attached very well anyway. Oh there we go!

KATIE: Perfect.

[jaunty, old timey music plays with slide clicks and stops]

EMILY: So fleshing basically involves taking a pair of tweezers or one of these wire brushes and getting the tissue off of the skin, right?

KATIE: Yup. And, when I'm at home I have a fleshing beam. So it's just a piece of wood at a 45 degree angle that I set skin on and same thing with the blade, it's about a 45 degree angle you just want to get in here under the muscle and you just scrape it off.

EMILY: And so for the tanning process [film reel clicking] you know my idea is that we have these huge tanning wheels out over there and I imagine like this going into a some kind of version of a dryer or something. But that's not how you tan the skins that we're going to transition into.

KATIE: Yeah, for these guys, I just mix up a tanning solution of, the one that I use, has a mix of formic acid and a couple other different chemicals, so they're really harsh.

EMILY: So basically, they, the skins go into a chemical tan and then we get  these guys.

KATIE: Yup. These guys right here. So they are completely tanned already and we just have to go and finish prepping them.

EMILY: So we kind of cheated a little bit. In that we had ones that were already ready for the sake of the

KATIE: We could like film for like five days you know

EMILY: Yeah. It's like the brownies in the cooking show where you're just like here's the batter and here's the brownies. [Katie giggles]

ANNA: Jeez. I'm really glad you said something because I brought a change of clothes. Five days later.

EMILY: Oh yeah. Movie magic. [Anna and Katie laugh]

[jaunty, old timey music with slide clicks plays and stops]

EMILY: So you have these forms and I can't imagine this is what Carl Akeley used. For his taxidermy. So, so what are these forms. Where can you buy them and how are they different than like using the actual skeleton parts.

KATIE: Okay. So these guys are made out of a high density urethane foam and they are just popped out of molds and they come from different Taxidermy supply companies.

EMILY: Anna and I have the same one. But not all squirrels are

KATIE: Yeah but your squirrels are smaller and I don't know what's going on with this big guy, but he's huge.

ANNA: It's just crazy to think about replicating veins and like muscle structure with that.

KATIE: Yeah. [Sanding noises] Yeah, we kind of rough it up. Try to remove the lines on here, go around the face. With the modeling tool or with the scalpel, I can give you the modeling took when I'm done with it. I'll just use this guy for an example. You want to follow along that lip line that's already on your form, and you want to go in about a quarter of an inch deep or so, and this is our little relief cut in our form so that we can tuck  the lips that we split, all that loose skin, inside of here.

ANNA: Oh. So like it really just goes like into the form.

KATIE: Yup. And that's how you get a natural lip line.

ANNA: Wow.

KATIE: So now we just want to dig in here so that we can set in our eyes.

EMILY: So what do we do with the epoxy?

KATIE: Epoxy? You want to put it on your skin so I'm gonna hand this back to you in a second. So you just want to open up your little leg holes, either with a paint brush or with the modeling tool and just feed. Front legs don't need as much, um, yeah. You can do a little bit more than that just so we're adhering our paws onto our form, and then those back ones you saw there's  about like a half an inch or so of wiggle room.

EMILY: Oh yeah

KATIE: So we're gonna put a little more down there. And because this is the type of, it's a clay we can also just work it down on our forms if we put a little too much on.

EMILY: So we, I already have the epoxy, uh in the limbs of the got those all filled out and now we gotta get a wire in the tail so I'm just gonna take this wire and feed it down to the end, uhhhhh, and it came out the end. Okay, so like right there. Is that long enough. [Anna laughs]

KATIE: It's okay if it comes out the end of the tail.

EMILY: Oh, okay.

KATIE: Yeah. So we got our forms all ready [Anna laughs] and we got our skins prepped. No we have our high paste. So all we're gonna do now is you want to slather on a little bit on your head and on the underside. You're not going to go anywhere on the back right now. So I'll let you do that.

EMILY: Okay, how did I do?

KATIE: Good. That looks good. So can start slipping your skin on to the form.

EMILY: Wooo. Aww. This is so exciting. Where's your other eyeball buddy. Op, alright. There's officially glue everywhere.

KATIE: That's okay.

EMILY: Around, without putting a hole in it, there we go. One eye looks...okay. One ear is really messed up. [Katie laughs]

KATIE: So we got our skins just loosely on our form, the faces are a little wonky right now but we're gonna go tuck everything after we have em sewed up. So, we're just gonna use monofilament to sew them up.

EMILY: Like fishing line.

KATIE: Yup. Fishing line.

EMILY: Why do we use fishing line.

KATIE: Because it's thin, clear, and super strong.

EMILY: So what's the stitch?

KATIE: We're doing a baseball stitch. Uh it's like a reverse whip stitch so I like to go with [Emily not vocalizing]

ANNA: Not English language.

KATIE: I like to go from the

ANNA: The sailors not technique of the roundabouts switch up

KATIE: So, I guess.

EMILY: What does it look like?

KATIE: You stick the needle through the underside of your skin.

EMILY: Okay.

KATIE: Either side.

EMILY: Okay.

KATIE: And then you just want to go back and forth, putting the needle through the underside  of your skin. So it's kind of like lacing shoe laces.

ANNA: Am I making my incisions too close?

KATIE: No, you're doing fine.

ANNA: Okay.

KATIE: Yeah. It's just whatever you're comfortable with for sewing.

EMILY: Anna, yours is so cute!

ANNA: Kinda, he looks kinda looks very scary.

EMILY: This is like a scary pose for squirrels. Like I feel like I kinda want to do one where it's like chewing on something.

KATIE: Yeah.

EMILY: Like put an acorn in it's mouth or something.

KATIE: Well it's getting ready to climb. Something intrigued it and it wants to go down the tree.

ANNA: Maybe there is a nut at the end of this pose.


EMILY: So how long does it usually take you to do a study skin like this?

ANNA: So skinning and study skinning can take 30 minutes.

KATIE: Really? Wow. Wow.

ANNA: Especially like a squirrel, it can be even like 25. [Katie laughs]

EMILY: You  just get it all out there and then you just big bam boom

ANNA: Yeah

EMILY: And we literally spent all day on these guys. [Katie laughs]

ANNA: Yes!

EMILY: From like 9am set up until 4:30 in the afternoon.

ANNA: Yeah, Yeah it was a yeah. [Katie continues laughing]

EMILY: No but I think they look pretty good.

ANNA: I think they look amazing. I'm, I really thought. I had really low expectations so this is like


ANNA: The most incredible thing I've ever done like art.


ANNA: In my entire life.

EMILY: Awesome. Well thank you so much Katie.

KATIE: Yeah thank you guys

ANNA: Thanks you're totally rad you're a really great teacher. She's super patient.

EMILY: Yeah super patient.

ANNA: You're awesome. Thank you so much.

EMILY: Yeah. Awesome and yeah good luck with everything with afterlife anatomy.

KATIE: Thank you.


ANNA: Yay.

[theme music plays]

EMILY: This still has brains on it.