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Cary ‘Coon Construction

June 28, 2013

by Tess Allen

Hi, I’m Tess Allen and I am an intern in the Naturalist center. I am a student at Western Carolina University majoring in forensic anthropology with a minor in criminal justice. My project for this internship will be putting together the bones of a raccoon my father found on a walk  in Cary, NC.   What I want to learn from this project is the skeletal similarities and differences between humans and raccoons by comparing the skeletons.  Here are some of my journal entries as I get started on my project.

Raccoon skeleton found in Cary, NC

Raccoon skeleton found in Cary, NC.

5/21 — Today I worked in the Naturalist Center doing different jobs. I showed groups our orientation video when they first came in the room, which explains the rules of the room. After the video finished, I went over other rules of the room, like how to handle the study skins and the interactive magic tables that the kids can place specimens on.  Brandon (curator of the Naturalist Center) and I also retrieved my raccoon skeleton from the freezer in one of the storage rooms in the main Museum.

Using glue to secure teeth in raccoon skull.

Using glue to secure teeth in raccoon skull.

5/24 —Today I spent some time working the door letting groups into the room and also counting the number of people that came in each hour. For the remaining time, I worked on the raccoon skull, putting many teeth back into the sockets. I used Gorilla Glue to keep the teeth in place. By the end of the day, I only had three teeth left to put in the sockets. I realized that the raccoon had a molar and three incisors missing.

5/28 — I mostly worked on cleaning the leg bones and foot bones. I used a toothbrush, a sink in the room, and paper towels. I used a dry toothbrush to get off any loose dirt or hair on the bones. For the hair that was stuck to the bone, I used tweezers in the Naturalist Center. The bones were then dried and placed in plastic baggies to be soaked with hydrogen peroxide to complete the cleaning process.

Holding teeth in place while glue dries.

Holding teeth in place while glue dries.

6/12-Today I counted all of the bones I had and it came out to 160. A female raccoon has 206 bones and a male raccoon has 207, so this means I am missing over 40 bones. This was way lower than the number I expected, but I think the missing bones are all part of the feet. I put the skeleton in anatomical position on the table and also organized some of the vertebrae. I also got some background information about raccoons from Arielle Parsons, a research technician in the Nature Research Center’s Biodiversity lab. Since there is a chance my skeleton is a female, Arielle gave me some ways to distinguish females from males.

Stay tuned, because the next set of journal entries and pictures will be when I am putting my skeleton into a case and putting it out into the Naturalist Center!  I appreciate everyone for reading my posts! More journals and pictures to come soon.

Putting the pieces of the "bone" puzzle together.

Putting the pieces of the “bone” puzzle together.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth Fox permalink
    July 17, 2013 7:00 pm

    I enjoyed reading the blog…especially about glueing the teeth back onto the skull.

    • July 18, 2013 8:03 am

      Thanks for reading our blog. We should have another post about the raccoon skeleton soon.

  2. Bosco Scott permalink
    July 19, 2013 4:17 pm

    This blog is very interesting. I can’t wait to see the final product. Let us all know if you determine the sex of the racoon. I happen to like racoons very much!

    • July 19, 2013 4:24 pm

      I’m not sure if we’ll be able to determine the sex from the bones, but if we do it will definitely be in a future blog post.

  3. Elisabeth Scott permalink
    July 19, 2013 4:21 pm

    Fantastic !! I will come to see the racoon. Keep blogging!

    • July 19, 2013 4:22 pm

      Thanks for your comment. The raccoon skeleton should be on display by the end of August.

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