Cleaning the deer bones

This post is about bone-cleaning and may contain text and photos that some readers might find disturbing. All content is hidden under the link. Continue at your own discretion!


It’s taken all weekend, but I’ve really made some progress with those deer bones we found on Thursday!

I knew this batch was going to be pretty pungent when I started soaking it on Thursday night, but by the next day the smell was really something. Most of the bones I’ve cleaned up ’til now have been largely devoid of soft tissue, but the deer pelvis and partial spine was still held together by connective tissues and intervertebral discs… soaking all of that overnight created a smell that reminded me strongly of the stink your dog brings into the living room after finding something horrifyingly rancid to roll in out in the yard.

nature preserve bone cleaning1 v2

I managed to pull a couple of the vertebrae apart to make cleaning easier, but two vertebrae were still stuck together, as was the tailbone to the pelvis. The rest of the bones were also in need of another soak, but they, at least, didn’t have any soft tissue stuck on.

And, I discovered that one of the leg bones was covered in chew marks from an animal!

nature preserve bone cleaning2

After I got everything rinsed and had pulled off as much loose tissue as I could, I submerged them in another washing powder bath and left them to soak until the next morning.

nature preserve bone cleaning3

After the second bath, the smell was mostly gone, which made cleaning somewhat more pleasant. The two vertebrae were still connected by a stubborn intervertebral disc, but I managed to remove a good deal more of the soft tissues this time around, and even got the pelvis and tailbone separated.

nature preserve bone cleaning4

This made it much easier to fit everything back into the bucket without too much wasted space, and since there was still a lot of tissue left on the bones, I let them soak overnight again.

This morning, my patience paid off: I was finally able to pry apart the two vertebrae!

nature preserve bone cleaning5 v2

Getting the last of the soft tissue off of the vertebrae, tailbone, and pelvis will probably require at least two more maceration baths, but I think the other bones should be ready for degreasing pretty soon. I’m really excited to see how these will all clean up, so I’ll most likely post another update about this batch sometime this week!

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