A few years ago, I decided to collect skulls and furs from the animals that I killed or trapped. It was partly selfish to be able to highlight the hunts that I have been on but it was also in an attempt to educate my kids about the animals that we eat and interact with here in Maine.
My first skull was my bear’s and even though there were a lot of issues with it (cut into pieces and put back together), it was great to see what was under the fur of the animal that I killed and ate. My son loved touching the teeth and seeing the ridge where the two halves of the skull were fused together. The bear rug is thick and soft and it’s my son’s favorite spot for reading/listening to books on tape. Since that bear, my collection has grown to include a coyote (my daughter’s favorite), beaver, bobcat and deer skull.
Each skull is displayed on a bookshelf that my Grampa made. It helps to highlight the size variables of each skull but also different types of teeth. How fascinating is it that a 37lb coyote and a 37lb bobcat have different sized skulls and fur? Or that the bobcat and the beaver skulls are about the same size.
The day that I got the beaver and bobcat furs back from Lori and Jim Geib at New Frontier Taxidermy, I brought them into work. My co-worker went crazy. She couldn’t get over how soft the furs were. She marveled at the coloring of the bobcat and loved the details around the face, “Is the nose real?” she asked as she rubbed it with her finger. She was in awe. And it gave me an opportunity to talk about predator control and how my friend Staci had trapped this cat and what an important tool trapping can be. My co-worker may have only heard a piece of what I was saying, but I think she got the overall message. She asked how both were killed and I talked to her about conibears and foot-hold traps and how each work. She already knew that we kept and ate the beaver meat.
Keeping these souvenirs has been a great educational tool. My kids, friends and family can see the variety of skulls, compare carnivore teeth to herbivore and omnivore teeth and feel what the different fur is like. Plus, it is hard not to geek out over all of the cool outdoor things that we collected; turkey feet, a fanned out partridge tail that was given to my son by his Aunt Robin, wasp and bird nests… all pieces of the Maine outdoors that we can use to get other people interested and learning. It has also helped my son be more aware of the interesting things around him as he is outside. I never know what he will bring back that has peaked his curiosity and I love that.