why yes, it is real snakeskin

poor mr. snake

We went to the Laurel last week and met with a woman who had just killed this snake.  I have no idea why, it was really small and non-threatening, but you know some people just can’t let things that freak them out slither away.  So, I asked her if she was going to use it, and she gave it to me.

scissors work well for cutting open a snake

I’ve never done anything with a dead snake before, but when my pocketknife failed to produce the desired effect, I decided to use scissors.  Worked like a charm.

peeling the snake open

Once I got the skin split down the length of the snake, I gutted it.  It was pretty much just like gutting a fish, much easier than a chicken for sure.

peeling the skin off

After I cut off the head, I worked the skin off at that point and it was really easy to peel it off the rest of the snake.  If it had been a bigger snake I might’ve decided to eat the meat, but it looked like it would really be more trouble than it was worth.

see, not much meat

So, I already knew that I could preserve snakeskin with glycerin and alcohol, both of which are common household items for me…I have glycerin for soapmaking purposes, but I understand that it is quite pricey if you don’t buy it in quantity from the soap supply.  Anyway, after a quick online search I found that you can use isopropyl alcohol, it doesn’t need to be denatured, so we were good to go.  It’s a half and half solution.  I just eyeballed it, I didn’t measure.  I poured the isopropyl in first and then the glycerin.  This is my attempt at a picture showing the two before they became one.

probably just looks like clear liquid, ack

Hey!  you can see where the line was.  Well, sort of.  I think the white line is the top of the counter as refracted (is that what I mean?  someone will tell me) in the liquid, but you can clearly see there is some swirly action there in there.  I think if I had waited, the two substances would’ve made a uniform substance on their own, but I stirred them up.

it wanted to float, which is why the skewer is in there

So, at first the skin bobbed out a little, so I wrangled it down with a skewer.  After it soaked up some of the solution it was okay, so I put the lid on the jar and waited three days.

We went for a nice long hike at Mill Ridge one of those days.

butterflies mating

We saw these butterflies mating, too, and I had to snap a picture.  I’m surprised it turned out so well.

stretching day

After three days we get to stretch the skin.  I was surprised at how it really has to be stretched.  It was wiggly and puckered.

wiggly and puckered, see?

All that I had to do now was pin it down and work more pure glycerin into it.

stretching the snakeskin and pinning it
the fully pinned down skin
rubbing glycerin into the pinned skin

So now I have to wait until tomorrow, and then it’s supposed to be finished, according to everything I’ve read about it.  I am thinking of making a choker necklace from it, since it is not a really big skin, but I would like some other ideas if you have any.  I’d like to have it completed before I go to the Firefly gathering so I can show it off to my fellow primitive skills enthusiasts.  I am really excited about this! so if you see a dead snake in the road or something, I’d love to have it.  I know only a true friend who really really loves me, or someone who’s just as much of a weirdo, I guess, will pick up roadkill for me, but if it’s a big enough snake to use it’s vertebrae as beads, I’ll make you something pretty with them.  Promise!  I haven’t proceeded to other forms of road kill yet so, hold off on the possums and raccoons for now.  If you see a fox, though, I might just accelerate my learning for one of those.  Yes, I know they spell possum with an o at the beginning but that’s just wrong.

12 thoughts on “why yes, it is real snakeskin

  1. You beat everything! That is so cool! I don’t think I can deal with getting you a snake, but there was a copperhead on my front porch recently. I feel as you do, do not kill it unless absolutely necessary. If I find any dead ones, I will keep you in mind!

  2. I would be interested in jars that have some special attribute, like size (half gallon or gallon) or are a funky shape. I also use bottles, I like those ‘italian soda’ syrup kinds that they have at coffee shops with hazelnut syrup etc. I use those liquor bottle pourers that fit in the top of the bottle and keep my cooking oil, vinegar, dish soap etc in those, they just look prettier sitting around than a regular old bottle.

  3. Wow. I would like to have been there when you asked the snake- killer-lady if she was going to use it. “why yes, I planned to take it home, skin it, preserve it, and tack it to a board so I can make a choker.”
    I have always wanted to do that, but haven’t ever found the right snake. I usually get there too late. If I do find a fresh fox, coyote, or whatever, I’d be happy to bring it home and put it in the freezer for you. How about birds? My landlady kept a freezer full of dead birds, a memento from her ex. They had split up 5 years ago.
    Keep at it, this is great!

  4. How can I not comment on this? Do you stick the pins through the skin, or just let the wider edge of the pin old the skin edges down by pressure? I’ve heard that sometimes if you see a roadkill possum in the spring you should stop and check and see if their babies are alive… not sure what you do after that!

    1. the pins go through the skin. It was harder than I thought it would be to stretch it out flat, but we tried to pin it as close to the edge as we could without tearing the skin. I wouldn’t know what to do with possum babies.

  5. That is so cool. That choker is going to be very glamourous. I can imagine that woman who killed the snake when you asked her if she was going to use it! I’m sure she was so confused. It’s guts look like shrimp in the first picture. Too bad you didn’t eat it. You could have put it on toothpicks and made some hors d’oeuvres. I fantasize about you getting a coral snake skin or something. THAT would be a cool choker. People would cross the road to the other side when they saw you coming.

    1. thanks! honestly there were so many tiny bones, that’s why I didn’t try to eat it. I would’ve if it had been a bigger snake though. Not likely to kill any on my own to get at the meat, but if a poisonous snake shows up and won’t leave, we’ll be having snake that night.

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