A beaver is one of the few animals skinned "open" as opposed to skinned in the "cased" method. A knife with a pointed blade is used to make the only cut in the skin and around the legs and tail. A second knife with a rounded tip is needed to remove the skin from the carcass without cutting the skin. A beaver skin has a layer of muscle that clings tightly to the back and sides; it is easier for the novice skinner to leave this layer on the skin and use a fleshing knife to remove it after skinning.
Put on the rubber gloves. Lay the beaver on its back and cut completely around each foot and the tail where the fur ends. Cut through the skin to the muscle, freeing the skin from the furless feet and tail.
Insert the tip of the pointed knife into the cut around the tail. Start in the exact middle of the tail base on the belly side and slip the knife tip just under the skin.
Slide the knife, sharp edge up, straight up the center of the underside of the beaver's skin. Cut a straight line to the chin, being careful not to cut into the thin membrane covering the intestines.
Change to the knife with the rounded tip and carefully part the skin from the membrane covering the intestines. Lift and pull the skin away from the carcass with your free hand and cut through the tissue binding the skin to the carcass. Skin back both sides of the skin until the legs are reached.
Work your fingers and thumb between the leg and skin, grip the leg under the skin and pull the leg out of the skin like pulling off a sock. Do this with each leg.
Roll the beaver onto its side as you continue to free the skin from the carcass by pulling the skin back and away and cutting through the binding tissue. Skin to the center of the back and then roll the beaver over onto the now skinned side, with the unskinned side up. Free the skin to the back.
Skin out the head by cutting the ears off against the skull and cutting across the eyes, being careful not to make the eye holes bigger than normal size. Cut the lips free from the jaws and cut through the inner nose cartilage. The skin is now free and ready for fleshing.
- Use caution when skinning so as not to cut your hands or fingers. Keep the knife's sharp edge pointed away from you as you skin and never pull the knife toward yourself when making a cut.
- Never skin a beaver "cased," i.e., by cutting the skin across the back of the legs and then pulling it off. A beaver skin is dried by tacking it out flat in a circular shape, which is why it must be skinned "open," (where the skin is cut up the belly side and removed like a coat).
- Because beavers have a lot of fat between the skin and the carcass, wearing rubber gloves not only protects your hands from any diseases the beaver may have but also keeps your hands from slipping on the greasy fat, which could cause the knife to cut into the skin or your hand.
- There are knives designed specifically for skinning beavers that have rounded blades to prevent poking holes in the skin. These can be purchased through a trapper supply store.
- Work slowly when removing the skin, because the skin binds tight against the back of the carcass and will need to be cut free all the way. Push the knife edge against the carcass--not the skin--when cutting the back area loose.
- Sharpen the knife whenever it starts to get dull. A dull knife makes you press harder to cut, resulting in slips and cuts in the skin. A sharp knife cuts smoothly and quickly.
- "Trapping North American Furbearers;" S. Stanley Hawbaker; 1969
- "Open Water Beaver Trapping: How to Catch, Skin, Stretch, and Market Beaver; Fred Lawrence; 1978
- beaver image by Bruce MacQueen from Fotolia.com