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Where can you find animal bones ?


This is one of the things that I have been meaning to do for ages. The question I am most often asked in emails is where do I find all my animal bones ? I don't really have any big secrets. I am lucky where I live because there are lots of animals, and I do lots of walks. Sometimes on the walks I find lots of bones and sometimes I find none. But here are ways to find bones for some of the animals in the UK.

Where to find....sheep bones

Sheep bones are some of the easiest to find. The best place to look is in sheep fields high up on moors or hills. When sheep die near the farm the farmers remove the bodies, but on moors and mountains it is too difficult to find them and bring them down. Moors and mountains are fairly horrible places to live and a lot of sheep die up there. Some will die out in the open but also check where sheep have gone to shelter. This dead sheep was in a deserted farmhouse near my village.

It is difficult to find a sheep skeleton all together because foxes pull them apart and carry some of the limbs great distances.

Where to find....badger bones

I haven't found any badger bones myself because there are no badgers near the village. A good place to look is near badger setts. Badgers often die in the setts, and much later another badger will redig the tunnels, and push out the old bones. This skull was found in the soil near a badger setts. Also look at the side of the road for badgers that have been hit by cars.

Where to find....red deer bones

Red deer are big but rare and secretive. Because they are big you will usually find all of the bones together. In my village, the red deer like pine forests next to open fields or moorland. A good place to look for dead deer is at the edges of woods or paths. This spiker red deer died at the edge of a clearing in Suicides Graves wood near my house.

You can use the guides I wrote to find deer here and here.

Where to find....fox bones

Fox bones are hard to find. These skulls were at the edge of a wood. In the countryside the main predator of foxes are farmers and gamekeepers, especially around lambing time, and the gamekeepers usually take the bodies away to dispose of. You just have to be lucky to find them. Be careful with the canine teeth because they easily fall out.

Where to find....haggis bones

Search haggis woods using the guide I wrote here. Haggis skulls are quite rare.

Where to find....roe deer bones

Roe deer are like red deer but they will live nearer to people, and they will live more on lower farmland. Once you find woods where roe deer live, you should find bones.  Woods like pine woods which have no grass underneath are easier to spot bones in.

The main killer of roe deer is cars. This baby fawn was killed by a car and left at the side of the road.

You can use the guides I wrote to find deer here and here.

Where to find....mouse and vole bones

Mouse and vole bones are normally too small to find but owl pellets are perfect for finding them. Owls eat them then spit out pellets of fur and bones. Look under trees at the edge of fields for the pellets, then pick them apart with cocktail sticks and tweezers like I did here.

Where to find....rabbit bones

Rabbit bones are the first bones I collected. They are simple to find because there are lots of them and lots of things to kill them like foxes, stoats and buzzards. A good place to look is near rabbit holes or in grassy fields. You might find bones still held together with sinew because they have been killed so recently.

Where to find....bird bones

Bird bones can be tricky to find because animals that kill them crush the head and other bones. I walk in pheasant woods with tens of thousands of pheasants, and lots of foxes to eat them but I don't often see pheasant skulls at all. I have been lucky with some bird skulls, like woodcock and mallard. other places to look are round the bottom of buzzard nests, and around fenceposts used by birds of prey.

Also look for.... gamekeepers pits

If you find a gamekeepers or poachers put then it's an amazing place to find skulls. When gamekeepers or poachers kill deer, they crop off the heads (if they don't want to keep the skull) and lower legs, and dump them in a special place. Gamekeepers also leave foxes and crows and other animals there too. If you find a pit like this one then you are very lucky. I brought back about 30 deer skulls, a fox skull and even a lower leg from a racing pigeon from this pit.

Gamekeepers pits are well hidden. Poachers pits are usually at the edge of woods, near where they park, and are just thrown into ditches.

Also look for.... beaches

I don't live anywhere near beaches but other bone collectors tell me they are a great place to find dead animals and bones, especially if it's a beach without too many people. Dad found this dead skeletonised gull on a beach on the east coast of Scotland and brought back the skull for me.

Also look for.... where lots of animals go

Every winter about 10,000 pink-footed geese come to lochs near my house. There are so many that some are bound to die. This one fell out the sky about a mile away, and was an intact skeleton. I found other skulls near the lochs as well. Be careful not to disturb the birds.

Also look for.... gamekeepers

Gamekeepers look after the countryside and can help you out in lots of ways if show you are interested and responsible. My local gamekeeper gave me a fox, a grey squirrel, and this amazing fallow deer head. They can also help just by saying where animals can be found.

Hope this helps !

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Izzy said...

Wow Jake I think this will really help me find some cool skulls and other bones because the only bones I have are: a sheep skull, a fox rib and a common gull humerus! :-D

redmole2011 said...

Ebay is a good place to find all types of skeletons, skulls and bones!

or if you've got room road kills taken home and macerated, bit smelly but you know you got the full skeleton.

Jack N said...

Wow, I hoped you'd do a post like this soon...I went go-karting for a treat today and found a roadkill badger.I was tempted to bring it home!

Anonymous said...

Jake, I always enjoy reading your posts. I'm an adult who collected skulls when I was a kid and never stopped--now I have a beautiful collection that gives me a lot of joy. Someday, please come to the U.S. and visit the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma--it's one of the most amazing places on earth to see skulls, and it's run by the people who own Skulls Unlimited. You would be very excited to see their amazing collection.

Jake said...

@Izzy: Glad it helped !
@redmole2011: I go on eBay but it's more fun to find yourself. There can be a lot of rubbish on eBay.
@Jack: a whole badger skeleton would be cool
@Anonymous: I've never been to the US but I'd love to see it.

Anonymous said...

Hey there Jake! What a marvelous collection you have here; I wish mine was as big!

You gave great advice on this page, but I have one suggestion. Shouldn't you be encouraging others to report poacher's pits, even though they're good places to find bones? Poaching is a terrible offense to the environment, and shouldn't be allowed to continue, especially by collectors like us who enjoy nature, and what it has to offer us.

Jake said...

I've reported some poaching in the past but its up to others to decide what to do.

Unknown said...

Hi, Jake!
I absolutely love your page. I hadn't really thought of bone collecting as a hobby, but it looks very interesting. I might give it a go if I can actually find any bones.
You mentioned that the edge of the woods is a good place to find stuff. Um... Silly question: How woodsy do the woods need to be? Where I live (Slovenia), there are some patches of woods here and there, and then there are the big, black, scary mountain-type forests. Which would be better?
I'm mostly interested in tiny things, like mice, frogs, stuff like that. Also, is winter a completely bad time to start out looking for bones?
Thanks for your reply and I look forward to many more posts from you :)

Jake said...

Hi Tasha. Depends on what animals; deer like to live in large forests for example, so hard to say. Winter isn't the best time to collect bones because the snow can make them hard to spot.

Missyell said...

Hi when did Jake become interested in bones and how? I find it a strange hobby, but only because I don't know anything about it :) I'm I treated to know how and why this is a good hobby x

Missyell said...

That should read interested lol not treated :)

Jake said...

This page is all about me and how I started collecting bones.

whirlston wood pellet mill said...

whirlston pellet mill machineYour article is amazing and it will surely catch more people’s focus.

NoOneInParticular said...

Hey Jake,
Whats a haggis? I was trying to look up a picture on the internet and it says haggises are a myth.

Jake said...

I wrote about Scottish Wild haggis in this post last year.

Janne said...

Awesome stuff Jake, descriptions about the environment really helped me alot for finding stuff to craft bony arrowheads!

I hope you keep finding dead things in the future too :D!

Jake said...

Thanks !

Marlia said...

Wow, incredible, a young biopalaeontologist... this blog help me in my project in the museum, to clean the animals bone, thanks Jake!

Jake said...

Glad it helped !

little girl said...

how old is he

Kayleigh Holdshoe said...

Jake I am so excited to day I found an owl now I need to figure out how to remove feathers it is full intact

Jake said...

Cool find ! I left my buzzard with the feathers still on, but I haven't checked how it has decomposed yet: http://www.jakes-bones.com/2013/05/a-buzzard-in-tights-and-something-very.html

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