Editor - Staff Writer

   Smoke Signals

                   Jul./Aug. '10


We get some real unusual questions from you folks from time to time. I told Bill I was going to address these as we have space and time to research them. Here's an old one asked back in 2007.


CARCASS Utilization


Beaver, muskrat and raccoon can be used for human consumption. The meat from these animals is very good if prepared properly. Animals that are freshly caught, skinned and gutted will taste the best. The front and hind quarters and back meat are most commonly utilized, while the rib cage area is usually discarded. All meat should be soaked in salt water overnight before preparing. All fat should be carefully removed from raccoon and parboiling further helps to eliminate fat and the taste it imparts to the meat. All oil should be skimmed or poured off after boiling.

Beaver and muskrat carcasses can be sold to fur farms as animal feed or to sled dog trainers. Carcasses should be gutted and frozen while being stored. Most dogs will eat beaver and muskrat carcasses. These can be used as excellent supplements to or substitutes for dog food.

The meat from many fur bearers can all be used as trapping bait. Muskrat is excellent bait for mink. Pieces of beaver or muskrat, either fresh or tainted, work well for canines and cats, especially in winter, as is bobcat or lynx.

High school biology teachers in your area might want carcasses or skulls for use as teaching aids in anatomy or taxonomy classes. The trapper should attempt to utilize the full value of every fur bearer.


Many trappers are unaware of the value of the glands of animals that they trap. Some glands have commercial value and others are valuable to the trapper for formulating his own lures. On beaver, castor glands and oil sacs, both found in the anal area, are of value and can be removed by carefully pulling and cutting the flesh away from the glands. The oil sacs are light in color and contain a yellowish, oily fluid. The castor glands are darker with a veined appearance. Care should be taken to keep the pair of castor glands joined together. Castors are normally dried before selling, but can be frozen. To dry, hang them over a rope or wire. Dry them for one day, essence). room temperature, then freeze until sale. Beaver castor is used extensively in the perfume industry as well as by lure manufacturers.

Members of the weasel family (mink, weasel, skunk, otter, fisher) have anal glands which contain a powerful musk useful in lure making. These glands open in the anal area and are pod-shaped, containing liquid musk. They can be cut loose carefully with a minimum of squeezing and should be kept cool or frozen until used. The glands of weasels are particularly valuable as an attractant for mink, otter, weasel or canids. The anal glands and foot pads of canines are often used in lure making for those species. The glands of raccoons, opossums, badgers, and muskrats are less commonly collected for lure making.

Caution: Glands should be doubly or triply sealed before placing in the family freezer, and even then you do so at your own risk! Skunk glands can be removed by the method described above, but it is easier (and safer) to withdraw the musk with a syringe and inject it into a jar that can be tightly sealed and stored in a cool place (there is no need to freeze pure skunk.

  • Information is a reprint used with permission from the Colorado Outdoors Magazine Summer 1989.



Does anyone know what would need to be done to a beaver so I could properly freeze it , if anyone can help with this, I'd appreciate it, things along the line of how to gut them, whether to quarter it, etc....  Leonard Bates, Colo. Spgs, CO.


First, skin the critter. Next, using just the tip of your knife, slit up the centerline of the abdominal wall from vent to breastbone, cutting to one side of the penis if a male. Cut away the diaphragm (the muscle between the abdomen and chest). Reach into the chest as in into the neck as possible and cut away the trachea and esohagus (throat). Pull on these two structures to remove the lungs, and heart. Stop when these structures are pulled just below the sternum (breastbone). Take a bit of string to tie off the urethra as near the genitalia as you can. Use another bit of string to tie off the large bowel as near the anus as possible. Use a knife to severe these structures as near the surface as you can. The string is used to help prevent contaminating your meat with urine or feces.

Once the bowel and urethra are severed, removed everything that's inside the carcass. Clean up any blood or other gunk spilled onto the meat by rinsing it in cold water, but don't let the meat soak in water as that will only drive blood and stuff in deeper. Remove the front legs by slicing the shoulder blade away with your knife.

Remove the rear legs by slicing the muscle between the thigh and spine until you can see the ball joint of the femurs (large thigh bones). Cut away any ligaments you see, and twist and pry until the femur pops out of the joint. You'll then have the entire rear leg in your hand.

Cut the back away from the ribcage by cutting through the meat just behind the last (floating) ribs on both sides, all the way to the spine. Break the spine over your knee (like a stick of wood) and cut the two pieces away with your knife.

If you wish, you can use a knife to split the sternum. By breaking the ribs near the spine you can then make the breast lie more or less flat. I prefer to wrap each piece separately in film, then again in butcher

paper. Use a permanent marker to mark the species and date, and place it in your freezer. I use a chest-type freezer for game, and first place it as near the coils of the freezer as possible to freeze it deeply. Once it's frozen through I can move it to the other end of the freezer for storage.

If you wish to ship it, contact a local meat packing house. They should be able to provide heavy cardboard containers or perhaps even styrofoam shipping boxes. Dry ice can be purchased from an ice-cream wholesaler, some meat packing plants, or a fire-extinguisher repair/servicing company (Carbon dioxide is also used in some extinguishers). To ship 1 beaver frozen, you'll need about 1 lb. of dry ice. Be sure the dry ice is wrapped in several sheets of newspaper or similar so it doesn't rest directly against a package of meat.

Be sure the recipient knows to expect the package so s/he can remove the meat and place it back in a freezer as soon as possible.


"Swanny" Thomas Swann, Alaska State Muzzle Loading Association.


We will continue to answer questions that we think will interest our members here and the other ones will be answer by email.


Buck Conner


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updated  07/10/2010   

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