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Digging up the fox and the grey squirrel


At the end of last September, I buried a fox and a squirrel that I had been given by a gamekeeper. (I buried because I wanted to get them rotted down but I now know the best way is to leave them above ground.) Yesterday morning, I went back to dig them up.

I had been back to dig them up before. I went back in January with dad after we had about six weeks of snow. We could hardly find the spot where were we buried them ! We had almost given up then we got lucky and found the spot. The snow on top of the spot had turned into an enormous slab of ice that the spade wouldn't go through. Eventually we put a rope round it and pulled it up.

We had a quick look but there seemed to be some soft tissue left. The maggots had died because of the cold.

When we went back yesterday we didn't know whether it was going to be rotted down enough. This time is was easy to find the spot.

After I dug down a bit I found the mesh I had wrapped the fox in.

Even after I dug it out, it was hard to see what was inside. Then I saw the skull !

The first thing I did was to put rubber gloves on that I carry in my rucksack.

Then we unwrapped the mesh and I started to take the bones out. I used the yellow box for the skull and jaw, the orange bag for the big bones, and another rubber glove for the tiny bones.

When we buried the fox in September this is what it looked like:

When we dug it up, this is how it looked:

The fur and skin at the bottom of the mesh had formed a layer that the bones sat on. Some of the bones were difficult to find and I had to pick through the fur to find them,

When I put the jaws away I noticed a bottom canine was missing. We looked all the way through the fur but couldn't find it. Then at the last minute I found it ! It had fallen out when I first moved the mesh.

After we got all the fox bones out, we went back for the squirrel:

When I buried the squirrel in September it looked like this:

And when I dug it up it looked like this:

I didn't take all the bones of the squirrel, only the big ones. The strange thing was, the chest cavity didn't seem to have rotted own. This is the squirrel skull which we put away in its own box:

The next stage is to clean the bones. I have already started with the fox skeleton by soaking it in hot water and biological washing powder. I will write more about the skeletons later !

UPDATE: Here's what I wrote about the squirrel, and here's what I wrote about the fox !

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Fiona said...

Hi Jake!
I LOVE your blog ~ it's amazing! My son and I have been inspired to start our own collection and today we found a dead squirrel that had been hit by a car. I saw that you said we shouldn't bury them as they rot better out of the ground. Do you have any tips? We live in a city with a fairly small garden so I'm a bit worried about the smell!
Fiona & Corban

Jake said...

Hi Fiona & Corban ! You could put it under a flower pot but make sure there is a gap so flies can get in and lay their eggs. The eggs turn into maggots which eat the flesh. The smell shouldn't be too bad if you do that.

Anonymous said...

Where's the tail on that fox?

Jake said...

The tail was tucked in underneath. You can see the bones in the picture here.

Jacob said...

Hey man! Awesome stuff, wish I had gamekeeper friends. I was wondering if you were interested in a trade??


Jake said...

Hi Jacob,

Maybe. What skulls would you like ?

Jacob said...

I totally understand if these Skull are special to you-I know mine are. But I'm offering an, admittedly, fairly beat-up juvenile pig skull ( it has one nose-bit missing, a bit of the front bit where the incisors go, a few missing incisors (obviously), part of the right side's zygomatic arch missing, and the back of the skull is missing, and has neither of it's jaws) and a very nearly perfect (I think adolescent) Sheep skull from Dartmoor for a deer Skull. I can upload some photos if you like :)

Jacob said...

Also I think there may be something wrong with your gallery-It's not showing anything :(

Jacob said...

So what do you say to the trade?

Jake said...

Hi Jacob,

I am okay for pigs and sheep, but is there anything else you want to trade ? PS. My email is jakesbones@gmail.com

Jacob said...

Well, I do have a seagull... It's braincase is damaged though. If I can find them I have it's jaws as well.

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