1 - Gray Squirrel

Abigail Black 11/14/2023
May 24, 2021. This is the tragic tale of how a squirrel met a car and fell head over heals... right to the curb, where my parents pointed it out to me after they returned from errands. I quickly placed the squirrel in my brand new decomposition box, with a fine mesh screen beneath it so I wouldn't lose any bones.

May 26. It took a day and a half for the first fly larvae to hatch. They were all laid in the head, which was the car's bumper's fault.

May 27. As the flesh was eaten away it became clear that the skull was in shambles. I could already tell this was going to be a real fun puzzle putting those fragments back together.

May 29. At this point, most of the fur had sloughed off and the skin was black and turning translucent. I could just see the bones showing through the skin as the muscles liquified.

June 3. I could definitely see the bones through the skin now.

June 6. The skin started to pull away at this point, especially at the hands. The skull fragments were free floating.

June 13. This weird yellow mold fungus stuff appeared. It didn't last long.

June 18. The skin started to harden and tighten.

June 21. By this point, the larvae were flies and gone.

July 2. More of the same.

July 29. Since most of the decomposition process was in its final stages and clearly slowing down, I left it for a bit. When I came back, I noticed that the tightening skin had minutely adjusted some of the limbs.

August 7. Hello, spine and ribs! Nice to see you!

August 16. Some creepy crawlies decided to visit.

August 26. I started to realize the fine leaf litter was going to prove problematic when puzzling leaf from bone.

September 19. I donned plastic gloves and grabbed an old cup and a pair of tweezers. It took about half an hour squatting over the box before I figured I had all the bones. I tossed the fine mesh in the trash and placed the bones in an old plastic measuring dish. I took 2 parts hydrogen peroxide 1 part water and covered the bones. They immediately started to sizzle. I covered this with cling wrap

October 1. After a few days, when it stopped sizzling, I took an old toothbrush and scrubbed each individual bone free of residual flesh or tendon. I refreshed the water mix and left it for a while. Then, I drained the water mix and put the dish, with the wrap still on, in direct sunlight to bake in the UVs for a week. I then dumped the bones in a small aluminum baking tin and brought it inside.

August 17, 2022. I remembered this was a thing I was doing now and pulled the tin from storage. I was using a pair of tweezers still, but only for bones way too small for my fingers, which was pretty much all of them. Definitely need to invest in some third-hand stands. Anyway, I organized the skeleton on a piece of wood. The skull fragments I put in the tin's lid.

August 21. I printed out a reference picture of a squirrel skull from the internet and managed to glue the fragments together in approximately the right places. I know a few are missing, but it's what I had, and I think it turned out pretty well.

September 1. I had the vertebrae glued together, attached the pelvis and the tail. Did a few tail bones get mixed up with the phalanges and vise versa? *Shrug*

September 3. Sometime between 9/1 and 9/3 I glued on the limbs. Ribs are hard, man. I used a chop saw to cut a fallen branch to size. I glued the foot phalanges directly to the wood and positioned the body, then glued that too. I kept it in place with a few props until the glue dried. After that, I took it outside and sprayed it all thoroughly with polyurethane, to seal it.

And done!