Highlights from our North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) dissection livestream (11/10). Lauren and I skinned this animal for use in our educational collection here at The Field Museum.
Watch the entire 3.5 hours
1. Where is this specimen from? -- This specimen has no data associated with it, but likely came from a government agency (like a state Department of Natural Resources, or Fish & Wildlife department), or a wildlife rehabilitation center. Even without knowing exactly where it came from, it is still useful for educational and scientific purposes.
2. Did you kill it? -- Nope. This animal was either found dead in the wild, euthanized at a wildlife rehab center, or euthanized by a wildlife pest management agency. Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources has a lot of useful information about beaver populations and their management for landowners. But, there are many instances where collecting animals for research is important, and to be supported. We made a whole video about it for you: "Where'd you get all those dead animals?"
3. What are you doing with it? -- We will skin the specimen, remove the major muscles and organs, take a tissue sample for DNA research, run the skeleton through our flesh-eating dermestid beetle colony, and finally place the specimen in an educational collection.
4. Why aren't you wearing gloves? -- This is absolutely up to personal preference, but in my experience wearing gloves negatively impacts my perception of touch to the point I can't feel what I'm doing. Gloves are very slippery inside of a dead animal, and wearing them makes me constantly nervous I'll slip and cut myself. BUT- partway through this preparation I did jab myself with a scalpel on my left middle finger: at that point I carefully cleaned and dressed the cut, and proceeded through the preparation while wearing a glove for safety. It healed well. :)
5. What's that brown, dusty-lookin' stuff? -- It's sawdust, and is helpful for soaking up blood and other fluids, and creating a textured surface on our hands so we can better grip the specimen during preparation.
6. Aren't you worried about diseases/bacteria? -- With some mammals, absolutely. Primates, many carnivores, and animals that are noticeably ill require special precautions during the preparation process. This specimen spent a considerable amount of time (months to years) in an industrial deep freezer, which could kill many of its disease-carrying endo- and ectoparasites. At this time we are not concerned about contracting any zoonotic diseases from the animal. If Lauren or I had open wounds on our hands or ended up cutting ourselves during specimen prep, we do have access to necessary medical services.