Beavers are furbearers. These animals were prized for their soft, thick pelts and trapped extensively during the 18th and 19th centuries along the rivers and streams of North America. The fur trade was popular during this time and financially lucrative for trappers. The process for preparing the animal pelt had to be done precisely to avoid damaging it. Preparing a beaver hide is accomplished in the traditional open method to this day, without the use of modern tools.
Dry the beaver pelt if the fur is wet, and comb or brush any dirt or burrs from the pelt. You can use snow if available to help absorb water by rolling the beaver around in it, or take it home to hang in a cool, dry place until the fur is completely dry.
Lay the beaver on its back on a pile of rocks. The rocks will help to drain the blood away from the animal as you work and help keep the beaver in position.
Cut the animal straight down the center, from chin to tail, using a sharp knife. Chop off all four feet with a hatchet or a large long-handled knife
Cut away the pelt and fat from the muscle tissue on the beaver's belly. This is a thin layer of tissue holding the pelt onto the muscle. Start at the initial center cut, and angle the knife blade toward the muscle to avoid damaging the pelt. Cut the pelt away from the tissue until you reach the beaver's armpits and groin.
Peel the pelt back to see the connecting tissue on the legs. Slice through the tissue, separating the pelt from the legs, then pull the pelt over the end of the bones where you chopped off the feet.
Lay the beaver on its side, and resume separating the pelt from the muscle tissue, working toward the beaver's spine. Flip the beaver over and repeat for the other side.
Place the beaver on its belly, then pull the skin up over the beaver head. Notice the pelt still clinging to the shoulders. Cut through the tissue holding the pelt at the shoulders, and work up toward the head until you come to the base of the skull and the beaver's ear canals.
Cut through the connective tissue around the head and the cartilage connecting the pelt at the ear canals. Cut the tissue around the eyes and again around the nose. Pull the pelt off of the animal carcass completely.
Lay the pelt, fur side down, onto a fleshing board, and fold the head end of the pelt under the top of the board. Stretch the pelt out to meet the other end of the board. You can try to fold it under or tack it into place if you prefer, or you can hold it in place taut.
Use the dull side of your fleshing knife to remove any fatty tissue or remaining membrane from the animal pelt. Place it horizontal at the top of the board, and drag it down toward the bottom, then repeat until the remaining tissue is removed completely.
Stretch the animal pelt out over a piece of plywood shaped in an oval, or have a board custom made to fit the animal pelt. Either way is fine, just be sure that the pelt is stretched taut, but not so hard as to tear the pelt, and tacked into place around the board using 2-inch nails spaced one inch apart around the entire pelt.
Hang the pelt up to dry for four to seven days in a ventilated area with a temperature not to exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit. During this time, the pelt will shrink slightly. After about four days into drying, remove the nails from the board, then flip the pelt over stretch, and tack it back into place using the same holes through the skin. Allow the other side to dry for three days. Your pelt is now prepared for sale on the fur market.
- beaver image by btanne from Fotolia.com