Help with fleshing fox

Submitted by Michael Spencer on 1/5/01. ( )

I have a red fox that I fleshed, split lips, turned one ear and then had to refreeze because of time restraint. Now I want to thaw it and finish the one ear. I am concerned about hair slippage. The fox was properly cared for before coming to me and I only had it out of the freezer for 2 & 1/2 hours. It is going to be professionally tanned as a wall hanging only. What about salting the hide while I am working on this last ear? Also, what is the best temp to thaw this fox out in? Any ideas? Thanks folks!

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Thaw it under running water.

This response submitted by John C on 1/5/01. ( )

many will not agree with this, but I thaw all my small mammals in running water it takes about 20-30 minutes. And keep the skin cool. tumble it sawdust to dry it, even if this means in a heavy trash bag in the clothes drier of air fluff. Good luck John C


This response submitted by George on 1/5/01. ( )

I don't know that your worries should be about salting the hide as much as thawing that ear. Ears are usually the first place than foxes want to slip and of all places to have to stop, unfortunately you found the very worst. Thaw the hide slowly and spend as very little time as possible getting that ear out. Try to keep your hands off the rest of the hide as the heat from your hands only add insult to injury. Salt the hide and keep your fingers crossed. You won't know for sure until it's back from the tannery.

One last thought

This response submitted by BobB on 1/5/01. ( )

All the above is great, but as Mr Roof so correctly said, the ears are trouble,
When turning that last ear, be sure to wear a pair of disposal gloves. I always do,
some people don't. My reason may not be the same as other taxidermists. The gloves
protect us from picking up germs from the specimen as well as helping to keep
some of those smells off our skin. My reason for using gloves is especially helpful
on fox ears .........

Why introduce the bacteria living on my skin (where it is considered normal
and only harmful, once it enters a break in the skin or mucous membrane) to the
dead fox, who is no longer able to combat it ?

After all it's bacteria that causes slippage, regardless of how it infected the fox

Another idea from history

This response submitted by Stephen on 1/5/01. ( )

One method that has been frowned on in the forums which I have used on an occasional mammal is to apply salt on the outside of the hide of the ears (both inner and outer surfaces) if I have insufficient time to properly skin them out. I know many don't recommend using salt in a freezer but for short times I would use this method.

Two points argue towards this technique:

Bacteria actually continue to grow in the freezer (besides chemical breakdown which is a different story). Long ago I spent a summer working in the USDA Beltsville Meat Science Research Laboratory in the Microbiology Department. One of the studies involved long term testing for bacterial growth at various temperatures below freezing using standardized sampling techniques for Salmonella, Streptococcus, Escheria, etc. using made up hamburger patties and sampling at 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 1 month, 3 months etc, up to 1.5 Years. Some species actually increased in numbers over this time period, leading to the conclusion that bacteria can not only survive but reproduce. The colder the temperature the lesser the replication. Halophylic bacteria (those able to survive in a strong salt solution) are only a small percentage of the bacteria normally found on a specimen. While many might argue that salt acts to keep the skin warm - that only occurs for a brief period when it is thrown on the tissue (or roads). Many have suggested on the forums to thaw in salt water, so that small amount of salt would be inconsequential.

The second point comes from history (one of the foundations of a taxidermologist). Carl Akeley routinely took HUGE amounts of salt into the field in Africa. When he shot an Elephant, even with a skinning crew of 15 he could not skin and thin the hide sufficiently to allow salt to halt the bacterial growth from the inside, especially when the temperature was above 80 degrees. He routinely applied salt to the outside of the skin to halt bacterial growth and in essence save the epidermis.

Good luck on your Fox ear. I would thaw it in the refrigerator until you could carefully skin it perhaps applying salt as it thaws. But then that, as all others, is only an opinion.

The Taxidermologist


This response submitted by Brian on 1/5/01. ( )

Saok it good ! works for me!

wall hanger

This response submitted by deer woman on 1/5/01. ( )

If its only going to be a wall hanger, don't worry about it.In fact if it was case skinned, you could have gotten away with curing it on a stretcher and not even turned the ears, just clean the ear butt out. Most skins I have had that were put up for fur by trappers or myself, the ears did not slip during tanning.The key is to cure the skin in a very cold room( but above freezing) and not go touching the ears.It may take 3 weeks for this, but strange as it is, I do not get the slippage much.Ear problems occur when you turn the ear too slow and body heat makes the bacteria happy, and also when a skin or unskinned animal lays around too long unfrozen.A fresh hide on a stretcher, then turned after the proper time, does not have great problems.In any event if the ear does slip some, being a wall hanger, you can just touch up with black paint( red fox) if its that bad looking.The ears are going to shrivel up too, so less ear to look at .

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