Back in the summer I came across a dead copperhead in the park one day. It startled me until I figured out it was dead.
Then I did the only sensible thing- I packed it up and took it home with me, thinking that this was a sign that I should learn snake taxidermy. The skinning part was pretty intuitive and the hide was very pretty.
After that I didn’t really know what to do with it, except to see what the folks at taxidermy.net had to say about rattlesnake taxidermy, which was close enough. The helpful suggestion they had was to pin the hide to a flat surface, then paint it with a mixture of four parts ethanol, two parts glycerol and one part formalin. I happen to have all these things and just a few weeks ago I finally got around to tanning the hide, while that incredibly creepy deer I found in the woods looked on. I eventually had to cover the deer with a garbage bag while I was working because he was distracting.
After the tanning part came the mounting part, and this is where taxidermy.net was unhelpful. They suggested stuffing the snake with vermiculite. What the heck is vermiculite? I guess it’s come kind of silicate material that people throw in their gardens for some reason, because I found it in gardening supplies on Amazon. But taxidermy.net had no further suggestions on exactly how to stuff a long, narrow, damp leathery thing with something that has the consistency of sand mixed with ground-up styrofoam. It was impossible! it kept sticking to my gloves and sticking to the sides of the snake and getting all over the place, everywhere except inside the snake. It was also not possible to sew up the snake around a pile of dust. It was pretty hopeless and I gave up.
I did have some self-hardening clay, though, and fitted the skin over a model of the snake, which was easy. It was also fun to roll out a perfectly straight snake-stick.
Another reason this was way better than trying to stuff the thing with vermiculite is that a clay snake is easy to pose, and with self-hardening clay, it would dry in that position.
And so I was done! Krtko was the first to meet my new snake. They got along just fine.
But you know who else would be fun to introduce to the snake? How about The Lizard? She loves meeting new reptiles!
However, it’s very hard to upset her. She’s pretty even keel most of the time. In fact, the only thing we’ve ever found that really pisses her off is meeting other reptiles. Or even other things that resemble reptiles. She was not pleased to be in the same room with my Grow-a-Gator, even before the gator grew big.
So I had my new copperhead ready and my camera in the other hand, with Jon assisting. We were preparing to take a cool picture of The Lizard and The Venomous Snake facing off in an epic battle. Here we go!
Well, that’s underwhelming. All we get from The Lizard is a sidelong glance in the copperhead’s general direction? Apparently The Lizard does not see the copperhead as a threat, only a minor annoyance. She did manage to glance up at me disdainfully, wondering why I was insulting her with this positively amateur snake taxidermy.
Well, I thought it was pretty decent for my first attempt, but according to The Lizard it was less realistic than the Grow-a-Gator. I guess I’ll have to try harder next time.