Video Review: Cleaning Skulls for Pleasure and Profit

by Ken Carver Vhs Approx. 120 min.

This review was first published in "The Probe", the official newsletter of the National Animal Damage Control Association.

Cleaning Animal Skulls You may remember Mr. Carver as I reviewed another video of his on Pocket Gophers. This time my video review is more about novelty information than for animal damage control. Animal skulls are an excellent way to educate the public about wildlife. With skulls, you can teach people about the natural history of animals, how their teeth enable them to eat etc. Mr. Carver's video like the previous, is a no frills and no nonsense educational tape. Mr. Carver certainly has a great deal of experience as demonstrated by the number of skulls presented at the video's opening scene. He showed off skulls such as beaver, coyote and even pocket gopher. Mr. Carver explains that there are essentially three ways to clean skulls.

The first way is to bury the skull and let the microbes clean them. The second way is to place the skulls in a cage and let the bugs clean them. The last way, is to boil them. It is this last method that Mr. Carver prefers. The rationale is speed. Boiling allows the skull to be cleaned in a relatively short period of time as in hours/days rather than days/weeks. His video takes you through the various steps to make beautiful skulls. His approach breaks down into four steps: Boiling, Secondary Boiling, Bleaching, and Gluing/Shellacking. In between the boiling sequences one must scrape the flesh from the skulls. The tools that Mr. Carver uses are dental pick, brush, scalpel, and a boiling plate.

I appreciated the way Mr. Carver took you through the process in real time. Only the time spent boiling was excerpted. You are left with the distinct impression that "hey, I can do this". Mr. Carver presented the information in a clear and frank manner. To add to your excitement, he even gives some prices on what skulls sell for. To my mind, you could add to your income with this skill.

I did have a few concerns about the video. First and foremost, I would have appreciated it if Mr. Carver wore gloves when handling the heads. Some parts of the country are affected by rabies outbreaks. At the very least, Mr. Carver should have discussed the potential for disease transmission. Although the picture quality is quite good, Mr. Carver should have spent a little more time working on some of the technical aspects of the taping. The tape is marred by some off screen noises and distractions. On a few occasions, Mr. Carver's actions occur outside of camera view. Another oversight was the lack of a source for one of the chemicals used in the skull cleaning process. While he graciously offers to give an address to those who write, it would have been more professional to give a few addresses on the video itself. If a revision is ever done, it would be great to see these changes made.

This video isn't about animal damage control, so I won't be giving it a grade. Yet, if you want a video to teach you how to clean skulls, I would recommend this tape. If you have read my columns in the past, you know that I believe government officials should be making better economic use of the natural resources in their states. Too often laws, like those in Massachusetts, actually encourage the waste of harvested wildlife by not allowing animal parts to be used and/or sold. I believe this video will help more people not only waste less of our wildlife resources but also allow more to learn about them too.

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11/9/03

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