How to Preserve a Rattlesnake Skin
We had a run in with a rattlesnake and killed it. I used the meat for one of my bizarre foods recipes, you can see the recipe here: https://accordingtoleanne.com/2015/07/20/bizarre-foods-monday-rattlecakes/
I wanted to preserve the skin and it was much easier than I thought it’d be. In my case, I wasn’t ready to work on the skin right away, so I rolled it (skin side out) and put it in a bag in the freezer. Do NOT salt the skin whether freezing it or working it right away. This is different than most hide processes but this isn’t most hide and the salt will ruin it.
So start with your headless snake:
Flip it over to get to the vent (basically the snake’s asshole) it’s an easy place to get some scissors started. Cut right up the center of the snake’s belly, taking care to keep your cut as straight as possible. Once it’s opened up, pull out the guts. Gently! You don’t want ick everywhere. It should come out in one big sack, dispose of the guts and head safely, such as buried under a rock. (You should also keep the head away from animals and keep in mind the head can bite some time after the snake is dead.) Once the guts are out, you can start peeling the skin. It may be attached around the ‘neck’ area, just use a knife to cut the connective tissue. Once that is loose, it should peel easily. You can slice around the button (where the rattle is attached) and keep that on if you like.
Once you have your snake skin, find a board that will fit your skin laid out straight. You’ll be stretching the skin out scale side down/flesh side up and stapling the edges down.
When laying out and stapling the skin down, take care to keep the pattern stretched evenly. I started with the ends and the middle to keep the pattern straight but I still ended up with a slight curve, as you can see above. Using a staple gun, work around the edges to prevent curling. Try to keep your staples as close to the edge as you can.
You may need to ‘flesh’ the skin if there is anything left on it. Use a spoon to scrape off any meat bits. I didn’t have to do this at all on mine.
Put your skin board in a cool, shady and dry area where pets can’t access it. Brush it with a thin layer of antifreeze and leave until dry. Repeat the antifreeze coating 4-5 times, allowing the skin to dry between each coat.
Once your skin is tanned, it’s time to remove the staples. You can use round nosed pliers to pull the staples, or just cut the skin free. If you’re looking to make a wall hanging or other flat decoration, you’re done!
If you want to make clothing, belts or send it in for boots, you need to find a smooth pole or branch and work the skin gently until it’s pliable.
I used the anchor pieces for our power pole because they are smooth plastic and it worked great. A few minutes of running the skin back and forth on the plastic and it had lost the stiffness. Start slow so you don’t rip or crack your skin.
The finished product; a workable, preserved skin: