Neighbor shot a coon...kids want to skin and tan it...opinion and advice please

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This morning around 7 my son discovered a coon poking around the back of the house. Soon after, the dog saw it and the coon ran up a tree. We called a neighbor and he came and shot the coon. Now the kids want to skin and tan it. The coon was not agressive and just seemed interested in getting away and minding its own business. It feels as if it weighs about 10 lbs so it it not very old or big. I have called a taxidermist, vet, and the humane society. Here is what they said... Taxidermist: Sure there is a risk of rabies but if you wear gloves you'll probably be allright. He had other helpful advice about tanning. Said he just salts the pelts and sends them to TX for tanning. Too time consuming otherwise.

Vet: Does not recommend skinning it. Could be incubating rabies or have distemper.

Humane Society: Wouldn't let the kids near it if I were you. Throw it down a gopher hole.

What is your opinion? Was this job ever safe? If we do decide to do this, do you have any advice for tanning it? The Back to Basics book says use 2 lb of alum. That stuff is not cheap at the grocery. The taxidermist said 8 oz in a gal of water is enough for a coon skin.

Thanks for any help.

-- Heather in MD (heathergorden@hotmail.com), February 17, 2001

Answers

Heather: I planned to tan my husbands' and brother in laws' deer skins this year and needed a sufficient quantity of alum also.I called a taxidermist and they told me of a firm in Boulder, CO that would ship it and charged a reasonable price. I think I paid $15 for 5 or 10 pounds of it. If you can't find it locally, email me and I'll send you their phone number. They shipped it out ups the same day. Jan

-- Jan in CO (Janice12@aol.com), February 17, 2001.

Any racoon that was found poking around in daylight I'd be real careful with! Local PD had to shoot a rabid one in town here last night. Not worth the risk in my humble opinion.

-- Bob Johnson (Backwoods_Bob@excite.com), February 17, 2001.

My understanding is rabies can only be acquired through the saliva. Thus, simple skinning should not put one at risk. Yes, be careful and wear disposable gloves while doing so.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 17, 2001.

You ask if the job was ever safe, and the answer is Yes it was. A long time ago, before we as an uninformed population became so protective of certain animals. The coon unfortunately is one of the "cute" ones, So over protected they have multiplied to the point where they mix readily with man and his dogs. Sooner or later rabies popped up somewhere (who knows where?). Then an isolated case of rabies in Florida can no doubt cause a panic in California overnight. That is mostly because of "sound bite" T.V.

The biggest danger in doing this tanning job is that some group will find out, that is in disaproval and burn your house, or disable your car or both.

Tell the kids to get on with it, and enjoy the experience.

-- Ed Copp (OH) (edcopp@yahoo.com), February 17, 2001.


That last scenario sounds pretty unlikely to me. Let's not get hysterically. There is a real possibility of disease. If you're going to skin it, you run that risk of course. If you nick yourself with the knife while skinning, you increase the risk. If whoever is doing the skinning is experienced, the risk is proportionately smaller than someone hacking away with little skill and regard to their fingers. A guy I know got distemper from skinning a coyote, wound up in hospital (REAL sick!!) and with the Center for Disease Control quarantining him for a while.

As people on the forum are fond of pointing out, it's up to you to make the decision if it's a worthwhile health risk.

-- Julie Froelich (firefly1@nnex.net), February 17, 2001.



Skin the coon, stretch him and let him dry. Grand pap would tell you not to forget the boney penis. He kept his for show and tell. I never did figure out if they had a bone in their penis. I wouldn't worrie too much about rabbies since he's already dead. If the early settlers were worry warts they would never have come to the Americas. Good luck!

-- hillbilly (internethillbilly@hotmail.com), February 17, 2001.

Thank you all for your input, concern, and at least one dubious attempt at humor. I waited to respond till there were a few answers.

The taxidermist also said this morning that we could put the coon in the freezer. He said it would help kill off some of the bugs/germs.

I didn't think to ask him at the time about what happens when you want to take it out again and skin it. Do you let it thaw or what?

I think we are going to try to skin it and do so wearing gloves as suggested. A friend of ours who has dressed deer is going to help us and has some more detailed books on butchering and tanning a wide variety of animals.

About the response that said to skin, stretch it, and tack it up to dry....what then? Why would skins be done that way?

My husband and I have no experience doing this and he is ambivalent about this little project. I want my children to learn how this is done. They can pursue it if they want. We have tried our hand at many things that people don't do on a regular basis anymore as it used to be. I taught myself how to butcher a chicken just so I could do it if I had to for y2k. It is good to be in touch with the past and helps us to appreciate what it takes to get some of the things we have and take for granted.

Thank you all again. I hope there will be some more input. The more the better. Any stories about your first time skinning an animal?

-- Heather in MD (heathergorden@hotmail.com), February 17, 2001.


I think you've already got a lot of good info; but would like to add a little more that will hopefully be worthwhile. If there is an outbreak of rabies in your area, then I might forget the whole idea. But if not, a person needs to remember that literally ten of thousands of raccoons are skinned in this country every year and I just don't hear of people getting rabies from it. Most "germs" like rabies, etc, do not live long once their host is dead. I think when someone gets something like rabies, distemper, etc. it is most likely caused from handling the carcass within a few minutes after death. I think letting it freeze in a garbage bag either outside or in a freezer and then wearing rubber gloves (I like dishwashing gloves from the grocery store cuz they are thicker than the thin surgeon-type ones); but get some that fit well - those two things would be most important. And yes, let it thaw again before skinning it. But just thaw it; don't let it get ripe or all the kids will remember is how bad it smelled! One of the biggest jobs after skinning on a coon is scraping all the fat off the hide, cause there is often a lot. The reason people talk about stretching and drying a hide - is that is the condition most trappers sell them to a fur buyer in. It is known as a green (untanned) pelt at that stage. And that is the purpose, just to get it ready to sell to a fur buyer. They were and often, still are tacked to the side of a building during this drying process because the person doesn't have a fur stretcher, which is what professionals use. Think of it as putting a shirt on a hanger to dry rather than crumpled in a heap, not drying well. Most people (including us) don't tan their own hides these days and it is expensive to have it done professionally (about $15-20 for a raccoon). Home tanned hides are fine for a lot of things like a fun experience for kids. From what I have read the results depend a lot on how well you keep working at the hide during the process. That makes it soft. I am sure there is good info on the web about the process if you do a search. My husband does most of the trapping around our place; but when I was in college, I asked my dad to teach me to trap in about 1979. This was in eastern Oklahoma. I caught, skinned, stretched and sold over 30 oppossums, 6 or 7 skunks and several raccoons. It only took me a month to catch that many, right around my parents farm, with only 3 little traps to set. After that, I knew why my parents lost so many chicks, etc to predators, they were everywhere! Hope this helps. Cynthia

-- Cynthia Speer (farmsteader@gvtel.com), February 17, 2001.

Isolated incident in Florida? I had heard that they actually had the HIGHESTB or CLOSE TO THE HIGHEST rabies statistics in the 50 states. Any real answers out there? Correct me if I'm wrong.

-- Action Dude (theactiondude@yahoo.com), February 17, 2001.

Hello Heather, In addition to all the "advise" you got above, after you skin it and stretch it you should scrape ALL the flesh of the underside. To keep it soft you should rub it many time over a board, tree branch or something solid, like you would if you were shining shoes with a rag. This will make it soft instead of stiff. Sincerely, Ernest www.communities.msn.com/livingoffthelandintheozarks

-- Ernest in the Ozarks (espresso42@hotmail.com), February 18, 2001.


Just bury the poor thing!

-- Shannon at Grateful Acres Animal Sanctuary (gratacres@aol.com), February 18, 2001.

The reason for most of the outbreaks of rabies and other illness's is the feel good laws that have been passed to outlaw trapping. You can chart the explosive outbreaks spreading after each state passed these "bunny hugging" laws.

-- Roscoe Rotten (rkphipps@simflex.com), February 18, 2001.

Florida has outlawed the trapping of all fur bearing animals. The natural result is overpopulation. Nature cull overpopulation with disease. (to comment on Action Dude's post)

They are cute, right?

-- Ed Copp (OH) (edcopp@yahoo.com), February 18, 2001.


Heather, Hi again.Ernest and Cynthia are both correct, If you don't strecth your hide out on a board or strecther it will dry out and look kinda like jerky(not that you're going to eat any). :) The freezer is a good idea I forgot to mention. When I was a young man,whenever my friend Doug and I would find a road killed coon that wasn't all torn up, we would place him in plastic bags and I would put them in mom's freezer untill we had enough to skin. Especially the gut torn open ones this would mask the smell of the open guts so we could skin them. I'll never forget when my mom found out we were storing dead coons in her freezer. Wow, was I in trouble. Just let them defrost a little so the hide is workable. One more thing the pelts are always better on coons during the winter months. I don't have any coon items left anymore, since we sold all our hides. I do however have a really nice red fox hat that I really do enjoy. Good luck.Coons need to be taken care of as soon as their spotted in and around your barns,They are looking for food, however they can and will destroy your chickens. I had one friend that put his chickens up one night only to go out the next day and find about 100 dead, slaughtered, parts everywhere.It was pretty horable. Your neighbor did you a favor by killing it. If you are ever bitten by a coon,rat,mouse.etc. kill it and take it with you to the doctor, this could save you.

For all the animal lovers out there. I enjoy and love nature too. I never agreed with leg traps. I used box traps that my father showed me how to build or I just shot them while hunting.

-- hillbilly (internethillbilly@hotmail.com), February 18, 2001.


This is going to be long, but is an article I submitted to the local paper. I don't think it is unusual for a raccoon to be out during daylight since basically if they aren't sleeping, they are foraging.

RABIES REMAINS A CONCERN

By Ken Scharabok

In March, 1997 the Salem (MA) Evening News reported on an incident in which a rabid skunk chased a women around her house at least 17 times before an animal control officer arrived to shoot it. In North Carolina in 1996 a rabid beaver attached two fishermen in a boat in broad daylight and a raccoon staggered into (rather than out of) a bar near Chapel Hill.

While these incident may now appear to be humorous, rabies remain a serious, and possibly growing, threat in the U.S.

While the most likely rabies carrier in Central Tennessee is skunks, a new raccoon rabies strain is expect to reach here within the next few years. It was first identified in Florida in the early 1970s and is spreading northward and westward. Various reasons have been given for the spread.

- In 1979 hunters trapped raccoons in Florida, transported them to Virginia and then released them to increase local populations and improve hunting. Some of the raccoons carried the rabies strain with them. This accelerated the spread up and down the entire Eastern Seaboard in the native raccoon population.

- The low price of raccoon pelts has decreased hunting activity, thereby allowing populations to increase.

- Unlike other wild animal sources of rabies, such as bats or skunks, raccoons have little fear of humans and many prefer to co- exist in residential areas rather than the wilds. This factor greatly increases the chance of contact with humans or pets.

- Unlike bats and skunks, raccoons are not very territorial and will travel widely from where they are born. In addition, rabid skunks just tend to wander around until they die while rabid raccoons become aggressive and have been known to go over a fence to attack a dog.

- People tend to think of raccoons as nuisances, rather than a threat, and are thus not overly afraid of them.

In some states rabies incidences have recently increased by 2,000 percent. In North Carolina known cases of animal rabies have doubled every year since 1990.

While the new strain predominately affects raccoons now, it can be spread to livestock, pets and humans.

In 1995 nationwide there were 136 confirmed cases of rabies in cattle, 43 in horses, 288 in cats and 148 in dogs.

Some precautions can be taken:

- Household pets, including indoor-only cats, should be vaccinated for rabies on a regular basis. Pets which are bitten or scratched by an unknown animals should receive a booster shot.

- Raccoon hunters should use extreme caution in handling even dead animals.

- It is illegal to keep raccoons as pets. While cute and cuddly when young, they turn mean when they mature.

- Children can have little fear of raccoons since they are represented as lovable, cuddly animals in cartoons or as toys. They should be cautioned against approaching any wild animal, or even tame animals which display unusual behavior. Even kittens and puppies can be carriers.

- The presence of raccoons should be discouraged, such as blocking their access to garbage cans and not leaving pet food outside overnight.

- If you live trap a raccoon, contact the local Animal Control Office for further instructions.

Those who hunt raccoons for sport should consider receiving a three shot series of pre-exposure rabies vaccine. The cost is under $200.

Symptoms of rabies in animals include: odd or unusual behavior, such as a nocturnal animal being out during the day or a wild animal with no fear of humans; aggressiveness; attacks without provocation; inability to swallow (the cause of excess saliva or foaming at the mouth); lack of coordination and paralysis.

Rabies is spread through saliva. Usually transmission is from bites, but cases have been documented through licking or even an animalís breath. It is technically possible for it to be spread by an infected animal trying to eat or drink out of a pet bowl outside.

Any animal which inflicts a bite must be quarantined if possible. Animals which cannot safely be captured should be killed for testing.

As soon as possible wash the wound thoroughly with a cleaning solution such as soap and water, peroxide or rubbing alcohol. Then make an appointment with your family doctor and, if not available, a trip to the emergency room may be warranted.

The virus spreads along nervous tissue to the spinal cord and brain. By the time symptoms occur in the victim, the virus is in the brain and multiplying.

Initial symptoms of rabies in humans are mental depression, restlessness and irritability, general malaise (just feeling generally poor) and fever.

The restlessness increases to agitation with increased salivation and difficulty in swallowing and very painful spasms of the throat. Death follows in three to five days from asphyxia, seizures or general paralysis.

Once symptoms appear there is no effective treatment and the fatality rate is almost 100 percent. The few humans who have survived rabies have been afflicted with seizures, partial paralysis, muscular weakness and impaired metal faculties.

Treating humans generally follows two procedures.

- The first is injections of anti-rabies serum around the wound. In some areas this has become standard practice for non- domestic animal bites.

- If the animal tested positive for rabies, or the animal could not be captured for testing, this is normally followed by a preventive series of six anti-rabies vaccine injections in the arm or hip over a one-month period costing about $1,200. These injections are no longer required to be injected deep into the abdomen.

No fatalities have ever been documented when proper medical treatment was received.

Be very wary of any contact with raccoons or other wild animals. The risk of rabies simply isnít worth taking.



-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 18, 2001.



My hair stands on end whenever I take a call from someone who has "friendly raccoon" in their yard. Usually it's in the middle of the day. They call me to ask if it's okay to let their dog play with it, should they try to pick it up, etc. etc. I don't know how some people survive to adulthood, with such a lack of common sense!

-- Shannon at Grateful Acres Animal Sanctuary (gratacres@aol.com), February 18, 2001.

Heather,

Do a web search on tanning or trapping or taxidermy. You should get more than enough info. If you have had very cold weather and now maybe it's a little warmer, the coon was probably looking for food. He would have slept through the bad weather and woke up hungry. We have a coon skin and a possum skin stretched on boards in the barn. They were both fresh road kill. Learning a new skill is always a good thing.

-- Mona in OK (jascamp@ipa.net), February 19, 2001.


Thank you all some more for the great information.

Cynthia, I appreciate the personal experience you related.

Hillbilly, thank for your second post. It was done with more taste than the first. :-)

Ken, the article was very educational. Thank you. I think I agree that a nocturnal animal seen during the day doesn't not make it rabid but certainly does make it suspect.

The coon in question did seem to just be foraging.

Shannon, I respect your position in the matter. We try to be good stewards as God commands us. Sometimes that means doing the unpleasant. BTW, our two dogs we have we gotten from people who were moving and couldn't take them. We chose to get dogs that were already grown instead of getting a new puppy someone had bred for us. And both dogs would not hesitate to decimate my flock of chickens if given the chance.

Again, you have all been helpful and have been just the souce of information I needed.

-- Heather in MD (heathergorden@hotmail.com), February 20, 2001.


Just an added note here. My husband and daughter love the taste of coon. When he gets one he butchers it and cooks it just like squirrel. I have not been brave enough to try it but from the looks on their faces it must be good. No one has gotten sick from it at our house. We have found several good books on tanning hides of all kinds at our public library. Blessings, Deb

-- Deb (christianunschooer@usa.net), February 23, 2001.

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