How to Preserve Snake Skin: Quick Simple Home Method

Snakes are nearly ubiquitous on earth. Thus preserving their skin is something everyone should learn at some point. Unless you need to survive in Antarctica, Iceland, Ireland, Greenland, or New Zealand, you’ll always find snakes nearby. Thus, learning to preserve snakeskin is a skill every survivor needs. Like pine trees, this ready source of useful materials is easy to find and identify. Fortunately, the process isn’t complicated. Moreover, you don’t need a whole lot of stuff to accomplish this feat. Where I grew up, we encountered snakes every day, and I have both eaten and preserved the skins of many different members of this intriguing species. I’ll walk you through the most straightforward process and give you tips on other methods.

How do you preserve snakeskin? The easiest way to preserve snakeskin at home is glycerine and alcohol. You’ll need a few supplies, like a jar and a clean snakeskin, but it’s surprisingly easy to accomplish. Depending on whether or not you froze your snake, there are extra steps, but the result is the same. 

Steps to Preserve Snake Skin

Although it takes a strong stomach and a steady hand, most survivors won’t have much trouble getting a snake preserved. Follow the steps below for the most straightforward home preservation.

  1. Collect your materials and snake. You will need a large jar. Typically I use a pickle jar since they’re larger than mason jars. Additionally, you’ll need a cutting board, knife for skinning or poultry shears, a butter knife or spoon with a thin, dull edge, some rubbing alcohol, and some glycerine. It also helps to have a rack for drying the skin.
  2. First, you need to behead your dead snake. Remove the head. If your snake is venomous, avoid the fangs. Put the head carefully inside a jar with a lid or in a deep bucket. Dead snakes can still bite you.
  3. Second, using your knife or poultry shears cut a straight line down the snakeskin from head to tail. Some people prefer to split the underside, but if you want to leave that intact, then split the top of the snake instead. The smoother and straighter your cut, the cleaner your finished product will be.
  4. Remove the skin and lay it scales down on your cutting board. If you’re cooking the rest for food, then set this aside in the fridge for now.
  5. Using your dull knife or spoon edge, scrape the excess fat and meat from the inside of your snakeskin. Do the best you can without damaging your skin. A whole skin, like a large piece of fabric, is more versatile. Use firm strokes almost like you are scooping ice cream. You can add the fat and meat to your food stores, assuming the snake was killed very recently, and you know it wasn’t eating any potentially poisoned rodents.
  6. Roll up your cleaned snakeskin and put it inside the empty, clean, dry pickle jar. You need a container large enough to fit the whole rolled skin inside and seal the lid.
  7. Make a solution of glycerine and rubbing alcohol. Since you need equal amounts, it’s easy to make a little extra if you need it. Pour this over your snakeskin until it’s fully submerged and close the lid.
  8. The skin needs to soak for two to three days. I recommend checking on it once or twice per day and giving it a stir or even a shake. Make sure the skin stays fully submerged inside the liquid.
  9. When the soak is finished, you should clean your skin again. First, use cool water to rinse the ‘brine’ off. Then you need to clean the inside of your skin again. Doing this should get any remaining meat, connective tissue, or fat off. It’s important not to leave this on both for the look and because you don’t want to make things out of snake and glycerine jerky.
  10. Use pure glycerine to re-coat the inside of your snakeskin and let it dry for a full twenty-four hours. This step is where a drying rack would come in useful, though you can simply leave it laying scale side down if necessary.
  11. Once the glycerine has set on the inside of your skin for an extra day, you need to clean it again. I recommend a microfiber cloth and purified water.
  12. Pat it dry, and store or use the skin as you see fit.

As you can see, the process for preserving snakeskin is time-consuming, but not particularly difficult. Anyone who puts in the effort can achieve useful results. The hardest part is killing a snake in the first place.

I suggest using high-quality rubbing alcohol like Alliance Chemical – Isopropyl Alcohol 99%. This technical grade high-purity isopropyl is useful for sterilizing surfaces as well, which helps when preparing snakeskin. You’ll be impressed with the fast shipping from this US company that bottles in Texas. To see the Amazon reviews click right here. 

Other Preservation Methods & Tips

Did you freeze your snake to preserve it? If so, you’re going to need to pre-prepare it’s skin before you preserve it. Using a fifty-fifty mix of white vinegar and salt brine, you can help a thawed snakeskin preserve better. Follow the same directions above, but replace the glycerine and alcohol with salt water and vinegar.

A gallon of Calyptus 45% Pure Vinegar from Amazon will help you to preserve a lot of snake skins. Since it is nine times stronger than most household vinegar, you’ll appreciate the quality of this concentrated white vinegar. Calyptus offers a one-hundred-percent satisfaction guarantee to back their product. Find out more when you click here

Some people prefer to ‘pickle’ all snake skins in the vinegar solution. However, it’s not strictly speaking necessary for the simple method. Often, when your snake is freshly killed, the glycerine and alcohol method is sufficient for beginners.

Use a loose roll so that the glycerine and alcohol can seep between layers when preserving. In a pinch, you can use a heavy-duty freezer bag in place of the pickle jar. However, it’s best to use a container that has a flat bottom.

If you have trouble with the scraping parts of the preservation process, make sure to hold it down firmly. If you cannot do this, then use a heavy rock or a vise to hold the top or bottom of the skin in place. Additionally, a smooth surface like a cutting board makes this much more manageable.

Scrape from the tail toward the head to help prevent tears. However, you should preserve even the torn sections because you may need them. Even large projects make use of small pieces occasionally.

I recommend using Momentum Elements 100% Pure USP Vegetable Glycerin from Amazon. This kosher product is ninety-nine point eight percent pure. Moreover, it’s made in the USA so you can feel good about supporting the local economy. Get a gallon by clicking here

Do Snakeskins Carry Diseases

Preserving snakeskin is more than just keeping the hide supple. You need to be aware of the risks and make sure you clean up afterward. Sterilize your surfaces and tools before and after using them. More importantly, make sure you wash your hands.

Do not touch your face or hair during the process. Salmonella and Botulism, along with other bacteria and viruses, are found in snakes. Furthermore, it’s not a good idea for pregnant women or young children to be around snakes or other reptiles.

While the concern is minimal if you use proper hygiene techniques, you do need to be aware of the potential risks. When catching snakes for survival, always wear gloves. Not only can they help protect against some bites, but they will keep your skin from coming in contact with the snake directly.

Constrictors Need Special Preparation

When working with constrictor type snakes, you may notice that the skin gets an opaque sheen. This cloudiness leaves your snakeskin looking dull and unfinished. For best results, I recommend removing all the scales once you’ve completed the tanning process.

Waiting until the skin is fully preserved makes it much easier to get rid of the scales. You can use any broad, flat, sturdy, thin, not-too-sharp edge to accomplish this feat—for example, a credit card or comparable piece of heavy-duty plastic. Alternately the backside of a thinner butter knife works well for some people.

Moving from the base of your skin, you need to get the flat edge beneath the tanned scales. You’ll move against the grain to slowly flake the scales off. I recommend finishing one small section at a time and completing about an inch of skin before moving upward.

By removing scales completely, you get a much more attractive end product. However, this isn’t necessary for properly tanned venomous (biting) snakes as their scales don’t tend to have this milky look when finished. Regardless, you are welcome to remove the scales, or not as you like.

Final Thoughts

Whatever you plan to use your preserved snakeskin for, by self-tanning, you can create a nearly endless supply. In a survival situation, snakes are often plentiful. Even in a desert environment, where there are few sources of food and supplies, snakes are often an excellent choice.

Naturally, it would benefit you to learn how o catch and safely kill snakes first. The technique takes practice but is an easy concept. A forked stick or tool holds the snake down, and you chop off its head. Be careful around venomous snakeheads. Unfortunately, they can still dispense poison for hours or even days after death.

As you practice tanning and preserving snakeskin, you’ll find it gets easier and faster. Luckily, this incredibly sustainable survival skill makes use of a commonly avoided prey animal.

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