March 01, 2014

Smelling a rat

Regular readers may remember the dead fox I found on the common, and my thwarted attempts to retrieve its head for water maceration. Today I found a dead rat (Rattus norvegicus) in the waterlogged grass near the oaks, and decided to take it home.

I used two dog waste bags to pick him up. He smelled quite bad; I think he must have been dead for a few days. He appeared to have a small amount of blood on his throat but was otherwise entire, his stomach distended and fluid-filled.

At home, I put on surgical gloves, fetched a lidded container from the shed, filled it with water and popped him in. He sank:


Then I taped the lid down with duct tape, put it in the yard where the dog can't get to it and placed a stone on the lid. Every couple of weeks I'll pour the water down the outside drain and replace it. Hopefully, in a while he'll have rotted down enough for me to retrieve, and then clean, his bones.

Some of you may feel disgusted by this project, and that's OK. Others may think it's fascinating, but that the actual process of picking up a dead animal, walking with it through the streets and taking it to their home is just not something they could ever do. If that's you, I'd like to direct you here.

It may not be the 'done thing', but I'm doing it anyway.


Update, March 22: I changed the water for the first time. I knew the smell would be bad, but it was far worse than I had expected!

Update, May 11: The rat is now soup, but the smell has abated somewhat (though not entirely). A lesson for next time: if I had put him in a net or pair of tights, it would be a lot easier both to change the water and retrieve the bones.