Tanning Snakeskin

If you have to kill a snake for any reason, you might as well preserve its skin into something soft and beautiful.

We hate to kill snakes, but occasionally it is necessary. When we kept our rabbits in a colony, non-venomous snakes would frequently get in and eat whole litters of babies. Even if you relocate it, it will often find its way back to such a succulent food source. Also, if we find a rattlesnake near the house or barn, we will kill it. Respect and awe for the creature does not override fear for our kids.

On the few occasions we have had to kill a snake, we have tanned their hide to preserve its supple beauty. It’s easy to do and well worth it.

Materials & Tools

Non-iodized salt


Rubbing alcohol


Sharp knife


Board, wide and long enough to fit the skin

Pins or small nails


Small jar


Step 1: Skinning
  1. Try and do this as soon after killing the snake as possible. If you can’t get to it immediately, make sure the carcass is in the shade.
  2. Hang the dead snake on a nail from a tree, so that it is at eye level. Do not be alarmed that it continues to writhe long after it is dead. It’s creepy, but no more than that.
  3. With a very sharp knife, cut the skin down the length of its belly, making sure you don’t rupture the innards.
  4. Free the uppermost end of the skin from the fleshy membrane and then gently pull down on the skin. It should come free of the body fairly easily.
  5. Cut the skin loose from the tail.


Step 2: Salting
  1. Pin out the snakeskin on a board, flesh side up.
  2. Sprinkle a generous layer of salt (without iodine in it) over the whole skin.
  3. Leave it in a cool, dry place for a couple of days.
  4. Scrape the salt and any dried pieces of flesh from the skin.


Step 3: Tanning solution
  1. In a jar, mix an equal portion of glycerin and rubbing alcohol.
  2. Paint this solution onto the skin, both sides, every day for 5 to 7 days. It should become soft and supple.
  3. Remove any excess oil with a paper towel.


You can now use your snakeskin for a hatband, belt or anything else where you want a little extra decoration.