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How Should I Clean A Fragile Turtle Shell

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by WonderingMan, Jul 13, 2019.

  1. WonderingMan

    WonderingMan New Member

    I work at a public park which has a pond in it. Within the last few months we found that our snapping turtle that lived there had been killed. I took it out and buried it in the back forty to let it decompose so I could keep the shell and skull as a momento of it's life. I just recovered the shell and skull this week, the skull was in good condition and was missing a part of it, which I believe confirms that he was killed with a strike to the head.

    My worry is the shell itself. I dug it up and all the meat had been cleaned off as I had hoped; my problem is this: the sutures (the part where the segments of the skeleton meet) have started to come apart. This made it incredibly fragile, but I was able to glue the weak parts back relatively well. What I'm wondering is, how should I go about cleaning the dirt off of the shell, which has stained it from being buried, without damaging the shell any further? I would like to keep it in one piece as best I can in order to preserve it's original condition. Any tips on how to whiten it afterwards would be great too.

    Thank you
    (Below are some pictures of the shell)

    15630199822701546298604857513413.jpg 15630202500933184658433229302399.jpg 15630202779382431248578160424230.jpg
  2. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    As long as you have already glued parts of it back together, your options for whitening it further are slim. Take a toothbrush or other small bristled brush and use plain dish detergent to scrub off sections of the shell at a time and rinse. Dry that section and go to the next so you don't soften the glue. When you have the dirt off, you can take some hydrogen peroxide and brush it on. keep brushing it on the shell as it runs off for a while than wrap it in some plastic wrap to keep it from drying out too fast. That will whiten it. I would have soaked in detergent water for a while to clean it of any grease and dirt, rinsed and then soaked the shell in peroxide for a few days to whiten and then slowly re assembled the shell and glued as I went along. They are not hard to put back together. Actually, the shell appears pretty clean as it is.

    As for a turtle that size, chances are that no one killed it. If there is a road close by, it could have well been clipped by a car. A normal blow to the head to a turtle that size most likely would not have caused it's death. The part that is missing is still in the hole where you buried it and the sutures on the skull will come apart same as the ones on the shell. Chances are that it's not the only large turtle in that pond either.
    WonderingMan likes this.

  3. WonderingMan

    WonderingMan New Member

    Thank you for the advice. You're right about whitening first then putting back together, I got a little excited and rushed right into keeping it in one piece (as this is the first one I've done like this). I made more work for myself but I'll try to clean it as best I could. From now on I'll know how to go about it, I didn't know much of what to do with this one.