Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy

Specializing in quality dermestid beetles

Taxidermy Care Steps to Create the Best European Skull Mounts

Creating the best European skull mounts requires following the right taxidermy care in the field and after getting your animal home. In recent years, more and more hunters are taking the DIY approach to making their own European mounts as a fun way to enhance their hunting experiences.

Whether you want to create the mount yourself or rely on a qualified and experienced taxidermist, you still need to follow the right steps to prepare your skull mount for the best results.

Step #1: Field Dress Your Animal

If you intend to enjoy the meat from the animal, take the time to carefully field dress it to remove the “guts.” For large skull mounts like deer mounts, elk mounts, and beak skull mounts, you still want to make sure that you do not cut too far above the front legs when dressing the animal.

For smaller game animals, if you want a complete skeleton of the animal, carefully field dress it to remove the “guts,” and then place it into a plastic bag. Put the animal inside a cooler with ice.

Step #2: Remove the Skin from the Animal

You will need to carefully remove the skin from the animal, including the skull. Be careful to not jab the knife you are using into the skull, as this can damage it. Instead, make careful incisions around the neck and then slide the knife under the skin, in between the flesh, to loosen it.

Step #3: Remove the Head from the Animal

Once the skin has been removed from the animal, you will want to carefully remove the head from the animal. Once the head is removed, carefully remove the brains and the eyes.

If you are creating a skeleton of a smaller animal, then you would not remove the head, yet you would still remove the skin carefully and remove as much excess flesh as possible without damaging the bones.

Step #4: Deep Freeze the Animal

You need to preserve the animal by freezing it. You want to freeze it whether you are going to take the DIY approach or send the animal off to your taxidermist to create the skull mount or skeleton.

How to DIY a Skull Mount

Bearded hunter in a fleece shirt and hat holds his trophy.

You will need to invest in your own Dermestid beetle colony. You don’t need a large colony to clean skulls. A small colony of a few hundred beetles will work just fine. Just keep in mind that the speed of cleaning and the size of the skull will be different based on the size of your colony.

Larger colonies will clean skulls faster. If you only clean a few skulls every year, then maintaining a smaller colony is better than building a huge colony of thousands of beetles.

Once your Dermestid beetle colony is established, you just put the skull or small animal in with the beetles. The beetles will go to work at removing all the remaining flesh, fat, and any skin or hair you missed.

The best thing about using Dermestid beetles is they will not damage the bones or any delicate structures like other cleaning methods can and will do.

After the skull is cleaned, it is ready for mounting. You may want to whiten the skull using an appropriate whitener before mounting it.

To learn more about DIY skull cleaning, starting a Dermestid beetle colony, or instructions on how to ship your skull to have us clean it for you, please feel free to contact Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy at (907) 942-2847 today!

Taxidermy Care 101: How to Care for Your Animal Pre-Mount

If you plan on keeping a trophy of your animal, it is important to follow the right pre-mount taxidermy tips as soon as you bag your game. Failing to do so could result in damage to the animal so it may no longer be able to be made into a trophy mount, rug, or life-size replica.

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Which Animals Challenge Taxidermists the Most?

When it comes to preserving animals, either using traditional taxidermist methods or creating animal skulls (European mounts) and articulated skeletons, the process can present some challenges even for the most skilled taxidermists. The process of taxidermy involves preserving the animal in some form, whether that includes using its hide or skin or just its bones.

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Taxidermy Dos and Don’ts

You got your trophy buck or bass after applying your patience and skill. Now you want to display your specimen in its natural form. Mounting your specimen takes an additional level of skill, but do-it-yourself taxidermy is possible. Here are some dos and don’ts for the process, but first we’ll provide a background on what taxidermy is.

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Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Taxidermy

When most people think of taxidermy, they imagine stuffed animals or skulls. With modern taxidermy, dermestid beetles are the choice for skull cleaning. This field hasn’t been only about cleaning your trophy. It’s been the technique for studying animals, taking measurements, and cataloging species for many years. Continue reading for interesting facts about taxidermy you probably didn’t know.

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Taxidermy Skull Preparation and Skull Cleaning

The art of taxidermy to preserve a trophy you bagged while hunting requires a skilled hand and a little help from nature. The thought of preserving some part of the trophy animal you bagged appeals to many hunters of all ages. You could choose a full-body mount, head-mount, or European mount.

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The Latest in Taxidermy

Over the years, people have relied on different methods to preserve animal specimens. Harsh chemicals, boiling, composting, and other methods can damage bones. Dermestid beetles, which are relatively new in taxidermy, have become one of the most popular methods of preserving skulls and other animal bones. They are effective eaters and leave behind perfectly preserved specimens that can last without degradation.

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Taxidermy Aftercare Tips: Caring for Your Skull Mounts

You took the time to scout out the best hunting spot to bag your trophy game animal. After you bagged it, you wanted to preserve its skull to create a skull mount to hang on your wall. You may have decided to also get the full taxidermy treatment and preserve the entire head.

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How Dermestid Beetles Produce More Aesthetically Pleasing Skull Cleaning Results

When you want to display your trophy game head as a European skull mount, there are several different methods you could use to remove the flesh. You may even have heard of your friends telling you about the horrors they experienced using certain methods or the painstaking time it took to clean the skull.

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Cleaning Furbearer and Small Mammal Skulls 101

You’ve caught a furbearer trophy, but now comes the hard part. A thorough skull cleaning is needed to properly display it. Providing one of the most effective ways to deflesh a specimen, a dermestid beetle colony can give you the results you need.

Here is a look into how cleaning small mammal skulls works:

What Are Dermestid Beetles?

They are beetles that eat the flesh off bones. In fact, dermestid larvae eat only the flesh of deceased animals. Thorough and effective, they avoid requiring tools to clean skulls, which can damage delicate nasal bones and other structures. Using flesh-eating beetles is often the preferred method of preparing skulls for display in museums and universities.

Dermestids are just a few millimeters long and have a lifespan of about four to five months. Their larvae are about the size of a pinhead and molt several times over five to six weeks, before burrowing and entering the pupa stage. They are effective eaters, but it often takes several thousand to consume the flesh of a large skull (you can get by with a colony of 300+ beetles for a single small skull).

How Dermestid Beetles Are Used for Skull Cleaning

Whether you’re a collector, hunter, or taxidermist, skull cleaning has many benefits. Bones are fully preserved and there are no traces of flesh to leave behind foul odors (except when the flesh is being consumed). Also, the beetles do not carry diseases. There is no weakening of bones or teeth either.

While Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy can process a sample you mail in, you can also buy beetles online to grow your own colony. Establishing a colony of flesh-eating larvae takes just a few weeks. Given the beetles’ lifecycle, you can feasibly create a self-sustaining colony of larvae and viable adults in a few months.

To accomplish this, you’ll need:

  • A place to house the beetles, such as a large container, plastic tote, or aquarium.
  • Substrates like shredded paper, mammal bedding, and Styrofoam for them to burrow in.
  • Ample air circulation with a tight seal to keep beetles in and pests out.

Dermestids also need proper temperature and light to thrive. They are most active when it is from 65°F to 85°F. While they do fine on dried meat from your specimen, you can feed them meat scraps and fish in between cleanings.

wolf skull frontal view

Professional Cleaning with Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy

Of the flies, ants, wasps, and other flesh-eating insects in the U.S., dermestid beetles are the most effective for skull cleaning. We can safely ship beetles to you. Or, you can ship your trophy to us, fleshing it as much as possible, freezing it, and wrapping it in plastic bags. Each trophy receives an identification tag so we can track it. Once it is completed, the treated skull will then be carefully packaged and shipped via a method you choose; no beetles or larvae remain in the skull.

To learn more about using dermestid beetles with small furbearers and small mammals, and ethical taxidermy in general, contact us online or call 907-942-2847.

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