Happy Easter! I celebrated by decapitating a fox and a badger

March 27, 2016

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire two medium-sized native mammals, both roadkill specimens in good conditions: a fox and a badger:

2016-03-27 15.09.09

But I’ve found from bitter experience that prepping out the entire skeleton of good-sized animals like these is a lot of dirty smelly work. So I decided to make things easier on myself by only prepping the skulls of these two.

Step one: remove the heads.

What follows is not pretty. Parental advisory: you should avoid this post if you feel a misguided sentimentality about the already-dead corpses of deceased animals.

I considered several approaches, as recommended by commenters on this blog and people on Twitter, but ended up taking the butcher’s approach — mostly because I have a good, sharp knife, but lack some of the tools needed for other approaches.

I took on the fox first. I cut through the skin surrounding its neck, and peeled it back far enough to reveal the neck musculature:

2016-03-27 15.10.55

From there, it was pretty easy to slice away the muscles down towards the vertebrae — but impossible to get right to the vertebrae themselves, because they’re surrounded by gloop including not only muscles, but ligaments, fascia and tendons:

2016-03-27 15.12.03

I’d hoped to be able to feel my way to an intervertebral joint, and ease it apart with the knife. But that turned out to be difficult. It was also going to need a lot of force, and I was worried that down in among all that gloop, I might slip and cut myself.

So I used our the axe we use for chopping firewood. It would have been terrible for dealing with the flesh, but it was fine for the bones:

2016-03-27 15.14.12

Then it was the same procedure for the badger. I started by cutting a ring around the skin of the neck and peeling back.

Straight away, it was obvious that the badger is a much more serious piece of kit than the fox. It’s not as long, but it’s heavier, and much more muscular, and it has way tougher skin. I don’t know if foxes and badgers ever fight, but if they do, my money is on the badger every time. It would bite much harder and its claws are epic, too. The only thing the fox would be better at is running away.

2016-03-27 15.16.27

Then, as with the fox, I sliced away the meat till I reached the bony core of the neck:

2016-03-27 15.17.43

And again, the axe finished the job. I was left with a pair of decapitated corpses:

2016-03-27 15.18.40

And, more importantly, a pair of heads:

2016-03-27 15.18.48

Also, some evidence of my activities in the bloodstained chopping block. I hope the neighbours don’t see this and leap to the wrong conclusion:

2016-03-27 15.22.33

What to do with the sadly unloved postcrania? I have no further use for them, so I decided to bury the bodies. I went down to the bottom of our garden, only to find all the sheep in the adjacent field coming over to see what I was doing:

2016-03-27 15.23.42

Best stay back, sheep! Or you could be next!

I dug a hole, which is a lot more work than it looks. Predictably, given that I am England during what passes for springtime, it suddenly stared hailing while I was digging. But eventually, I was done:

2016-03-27 17.27.03

In went the postcranial pair:

2016-03-27 17.27.38

And pretty soon, you’d never have known anything had happened here.

2016-03-27 17.33.02

Next time: exciting adventures with the badger head!

17 Responses to “Happy Easter! I celebrated by decapitating a fox and a badger”

  1. Nathan Redland Says:

    Delighted by the notion that future archaeologists will find the decapitated badger/fox grave and consider it to have been used for some ceremony of religiospiritual significance.

  2. […] (That’s an empty cardboard box which I’m keep so I can put more junk in it, preparatory to the next recycling trip. The blue bag is what we usually use for carrying firewood into the house, when it’s not full of RS-232 leads. And the black bin-liner lives permanently in the back of the car, in case we find any interesting road-kill.) […]

  3. […] no sense in decapitating a badger if you’re not going to make good use of the severed head. So here’s what I did with […]

  4. > I’d hoped to be able to feel my way to an intervertebral joint, and ease it apart with the knife. But that turned out to be difficult. It was also going to need a lot of force, and I was worried that down in among all that gloop, I might slip and cut myself. So I used our the axe we use for chopping firewood.

    Scrub. Better luck next time, if you work at this, you’ll be able to do it more easily without having to result to axes. :-)

  5. Mike, I suggest you think about burying a time capsule beside that grave, explaining your work. Otherwise, some Time Team of the future may find the remains deeply puzzling, leading to some wild conjectures!

  6. derek Says:

    My immediate thought was the same as Nathan’s and armadillozenith’s.

  7. Brookas Says:

    Hello! I would like to decapitate you! It would be really interesting to see you screamin you fucktard :)

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    You are welcome — or more likely someone training to be doctor is welcome — to decapitate me after I am dead, and dissect away. I would much rather that than my body go to waste.

  9. Fanto Says:

    i hope you die the way you did to both of them

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    If you mean you hope that, after I die of natural causes, my body is of use to science, then I agree.

  11. Matt Wedel Says:

    Fanto, you do understand that Mike didn’t kill these animals? They died of natural causes and he cut off the heads so he could prep the skulls and learn from them. It’s what anatomists do, and have done for centuries. If you’re offended because you thought Mike killed the critters, you’re simply mistaken – try rereading the very first sentence of the post again.

    If you’re offended by the idea of using the bodies of dead animals to learn new things, all I can ask is that you open yourself up to new ideas. (And maybe refrain from forcing that willful stupidity on others in the meantime.)

  12. Angel Says:

    Once you get run over by a car someone will cut off your head for scientific purposes and post the event on the media! Isn’t that reassuring?! You wake up happy you are not an animal each day until one day you wake up and you are…..reincarnation is a bitch

  13. Mike Taylor Says:

    I am completely cool with that. Lots of people leave their bodies to medical science; and plenty of those have appeared on this blog: see https://svpow.com/human-anatomy-study-materials/

  14. Matt Wedel Says:

    I continue to be amazed by the idea that preparing anatomical specimens that will be treasured and studied for years (or decades, or centuries) is somehow less respectful to the animals than letting their carcasses rot on the side of the road.

  15. […] it’s nice to be progressing this specimen. Next, I need to figure out the best way to decapitate a medium-sized mammal (like a fox or badger) without damaging the skull, and using no special […]

  16. […] and a very impressive 12 kg and 75 cm for a badger of the same vintage. (These are not the same fox and badger that I decapitated a while ago, but from memory they were about the same […]

  17. […] I am parting with one of my most treasured possessions: the badger skull that I extracted from my roadkill specimen four years […]

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