How to Clean a Bear Skull the Right Way

Do You Know How to Clean a Bear Skull?

If you’ve never been on a bear hunt, add it to your bucket list now.. It’s a very exciting ordeal that will get your heart pumpingThen after getting a trophy bear (or any bear you’re excited to take), it’s a no-brainer that you’d want to display its skull somewhere. Looking at that pure white bear skull on the wall takes you right back to that hunt where you can relive it over and over. But before you try doing things yourself, familiarize yourself with the proper method of skull cleaning. It’s not as simple as just throwing it into a pot of boiling water. This is especially true if it is a potential record bear! The first step is knowing the best way to clean a skull, which applies to almost any animal. If you don’t do it right, you can damage and discolor the skull so that it won’t last like it should or won’t look good even if you finish it. So to avoid that situation, read on about how to clean a bear skull.

 Record Bear Skull Cleaning

If your bear is a potential record, or close to the Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett Award then you need to take extra precautions and steps to ensure you are correctly cleaning the bear skull. The Boone and Crockett minimums for the awards are as follows: 

  •  Black Bear – 20 
  • Grizzly Bear – 23 
  • Alaska Brown Bear – 26 
  • Polar Bear 27 

In the world of bear skull scoring every inch,or 16th even, is a big deal! Cleaning the skull the right way after green scoring the bear is vital! Using a boil method to clean the bear could cause the skull shrink past its normal amount during the 60-day drying period. Normally you would want the skull to be stripped of flesh, left to dry for the 60-day period then processed. However, one method of bear skull cleaning yields stunning results without the worry of past normal shrinkage!

Risks with DIY Skull Cleaning

While traditional methods are still effective in some regard, newer practices are proving to be better suited when it comes to skull cleaning.. For example, most DIY or hobby taxidermists would simply throw animal skulls into a pot of boiling or simmering water to strip the tissue and sinew off the skull. Sure, it works when you’re cooking soup and the meat just falls off the bone. The problem is that it’s not the best way to clean a bear skull. Aside from the potential excess shrinking you can get by using the boil method, bear tissue and skulls have a lot of oil and fat in them, which will turn the skull a yellow color when boiled. This discoloration can’t always just be bleached away either. That’s probably not the pristine look you’re going for. Additionally, boiling a bear skull for too long can crack the teeth (especially the canines) and weaken the bone structure. Have you ever made bone broth? The idea is to simmer the bones until they leach minerals out of the bones, turning them mushy and weak. The same thing happens when you boil a skull and it’s definitely not the outcome you want. 

Another problem you may run into can happen when trying to remove all the tissue off of an animal’s skull. While most of the cranium is very sturdy, there are weak spots. For example, inside an animal’s nasal cavity are delicate and thin bones that can easily be broken if you’re not careful. If you try to forcefully remove tissue from this region using tools, you can quickly break them. It might not be a deal breaker for you, but it just won’t look the same as a complete skull. And while you might think you couldn’t hurt the outside of the skull surface, you can actually scratch it if you directly run a knife blade across it. It won’t show very much when the tissue is still covering it, but these score marks will definitely show when and if you get it cleaned off.

Dermestid Beetle Skull Cleaning

So if you’re wondering how to clean animal skulls, especially if you’re hoping to have a brown or black bear European mount on your wall, there’s a better way. What is this golden ticket for bear skull cleaning, you ask? Bugs. More specifically, dermestid beetles, a type of flesh-eating insect that excel at this odd job. Beetle colonies that number in the thousands are needed for most big game taxidermy projects. While adults also eat the tissue, the larvae will actually consume the majority of the flesh off the bone. They do such a thorough job that only the bone is left behind in a very short amount of time 

How to Clean a Bear Skull?

So if you’re sold on this approach, here’s the general process you’ll need to follow. It should go without saying, but the fresher the skull, the better things can turn out. Try to skin and clean the skull as soon after you harvest it as possible. If you won’t have time to thoroughly clean the skull right away, put it in the freezer and thaw it later. It will be much better than letting it rot.

The first step is to sever the skull from the first vertebra using a knife instead of a saw (to avoid damaging the skull with an errant saw stroke). Whether you’re keeping the hide for a full bear skin rug or not, skin the skull carefully. Make sure you keep the knife blade parallel to the skull surface at all times to avoid scoring it. Take special precautions around the eye sockets, since a sharp knife blade can catch the ridges and make small nicks that will show in the final product. While you can send the skull in with its hide still on, try to remove as much meat as possible at this stage to help save on shipping costs (since you pay by weight). To that point, you can also remove the eyeballs and the nostril tissue. If you’ve got a question on what you should be doing or aren’t totally sure how to clean a bear skull, reach out to us for some advice on what to do.

When we receive the skull in the mail, we will clean it up a little more and then place it into the beetle colonies so they can get started. It may only take a single day for the colony to completely clean the bear skull. After that phase, we start the bear skull degreasing process. Degreasing bones is a very important step that should never be skipped, since the oils can slowly turn the skull yellow and dirty-looking over time. As mentioned earlier, since bears naturally have more fats and oils in their tissue and bones than deer, for example, the degreasing process takes a lot longer – up to 30 days. After degreasing a bear skull, it is allowed to dry for a few days. Then it undergoes a two-step whitening process to ensure your skull will look white for many years to come, not just for a few months. At the end of all this, it is thoroughly inspected for any areas that may require more attention before being sent back to you.

Now You Know How to Clean a Bear Skull

As you can see, there’s really not much work on your part when it comes to cleaning bear skulls the right way. Most of the detail work falls on the beetles, and then we can take care of the rest. Your European bear skull mount is awaiting you!


What is the Best Way to Clean a Skull?

European Mounting | The Best Way To Clean a Skull

After days (or even weeks) in the field, you finally managed to put your hit-list buck, or bucket-list moose, elk, or bear on the ground. It’s a great feeling holding the trophy in your hands and you can already see that beautiful European mount up on the wall in your living room. But then you start to wonder about the best way to clean a skull for that kind of a mount. We’ve all heard horror stories of others who have tried and ruined their European mounts. You definitely don’t want to join that club!

Questions are probably swarming through your mind. “What fancy taxidermy equipment do I need? Do I bleach my deer skull or is that bad? Could I even do this all at home?”

There are several methods to clean a skull and finish a European mount, but only one that seems to consistently be the best way to clean a skull. And if you’re going for a trophy you’d be proud to hang on the living room wall, you need to do it right. Otherwise, it will be quickly downgraded to the garage wall. So if you’re wondering how to clean a deer skull (or any other species), this post discusses the pitfalls and drawbacks to the other approaches of cleaning a skull, and then discusses the dermestid beetle method.

Different Ways of Cleaning a Skull 

As mentioned, there are a few options to produce a European deer mount or any type of European skull mount.

what is the best way to clean a skull featureThe first and oldest option of doing it is to simply hang it up somewhere out of sight or bury it in the ground until nature takes its course. While this is the most hands-off approach and does effectively clean the skull, it has a few unpleasant outcomes. First, it can take several months or more to get a mostly-clean skull. Second, burying the skull may cause yellowing as dirt and other chemical reactions in the soil tarnish the naturally white color. Sometimes leaving it out may even turn the skull a greenish color, which isn’t appealing unless it’s part of a camouflage paint job. Strike one.

Another option is to simply submerge the skull into a pot of boiling water, which produces a soup of unpleasant-looking materials. This may work somewhat well, but the hot water leaches minerals out of the bone and softens it, which could cause it to become brittle much sooner than it should. Even submerging it in simmering water for a longer time period can do swell the bones and leach minerals. Plus, you still have to scrape the skull to remove some of the unpleasantness when it’s done. Definitely not the best way to clean a skull. Strike two.

After cleaning it, you may consider bleaching a deer skull to whiten it further and make it look more striking against the dark antlers. Unfortunately, using chlorine bleach on the bone will also break down the bone structure and make it extremely brittle. A deer mount that crumbles within a few years is a pity. Strike three. So where does that leave you?

How to Do a European Mount with Beetles

Now that you know the potential problems with the other methods, here’s why you should consider the Beetle Juice Skull Works method. Though we’re heavily discussing deer skulls here, you can apply the same principles to almost any other species. Dermestid beetles are a type of beetle that eats the flesh of dead animals. Obviously, that makes them very useful for this exercise. Since they are small, they can completely eat (i.e., clean) flesh from the smallest nooks and crannies, including cleaning the nasal cavity of a deer skull. This also makes it the most hands-off and best way to clean a skull.

what is the best way to clean a skull featureThe first step in the process is to skin the skull and remove as much flesh as you can, which will reduce the amount of material to be removed. The lower jaw, eyes, nose, and neck should all be removed to save you money on shipping, but they can be removed by the company as well. The brain will usually also be removed before placing the skull into the colony since these can break down into juicy problems for the beetles. Check out the step-by-step video tutorial below to prepare your skull.

The skull is then placed into the beetle colony, where the bugs begin to feast. A deer skull can be completely stripped of flesh within 24 hours of being placed in a colony, while larger skulls (i.e., moose, elk, etc.) may take a few days. What’s best about this approach is that the bone remains intact and strong, including the thin nasal cavity bones. That’s very hard to accomplish with the other methods, which is another reason this is the best way to clean a skull.

After the bugs have finished their dinner, the skulls are dipped into a special chemical solution to kill any remaining bugs or their larvae and eggs. Then the process of degreasing bones can happen, which will occur for varying durations (depending on the species). Deer skulls will typically take three to five days, while bears or hogs, which tend to be more oily, can take up to a month.

Why Beetle Juice Skull Works?

You could theoretically raise dermestid beetles on your own for this purpose, but you’d have to be very dedicated. A healthy colony will require a lot of attention, which can be hard for the average consumer to keep up with throughout the year. And since you’ll likely only need this kind of beetle colony a time or two in the fall, shipping your skull to this service just makes more sense. Unless your kids are looking for some new and exotic pets to add to the family.

So if decorating with deer mounts is your thing, you should strongly consider the beetle approach for doing a European mount. As you can see, it’s easily the best way to clean a skull and it will produce the best-looking European mount you can get, regardless of what animal you chase.