Want to start a bone collection but not sure where to find dead animals? Here are some of the best places to find animal bones.
*Note sure what to do with the animal bones you find? Read my eBook. It goes over the fundamentals of cleaning bones. You can buy it here for $4.99.
1. Hunting Fields
Hunters often just take the meat and skins and leave the rest of the animal. You probably won’t be able to find skulls or antlers, but you can usually find a lot of the non-trophy bones like leg bones. Ask local hunters for tips on where their “dumps” are. Or just walk around areas where those hunting lookout towers are. *In hunting season, make sure you are wearing a bright-colored vest while searching for bones!
I find most of my animal bones while on hikes. The best areas are usually around bodies of water, such as the edges of streams or lakes. Also look in the bottom of ditches.
It’s rare that you’ll find an entire skeleton, since scavengers usually carry off parts of the animal to eat. But you can usually find skulls fairly easily.
Note: It’s usually forbidden to take animal bones from State or National Parks! Check the rules before you go.
A lot of bone collectors keep a “roadkill kit” in their vehicles so they can collect roadkill for the bones. The ditches along rural roads are especially good for finding bones, as well as other roads which don’t have a lot of people walking along them. You need to be careful when collecting roadkill for bones though.
Otherwise you can end up with bugs (fleas, ticks, maggots…) in your car. Or fluids all over the place. Or even get a disease or injured.
Read: How to (Safely and Legally) Collect Roadkill for Bones
4. Train Tracks
Train tracks often go through unpopulated areas where there are lots of animals. Because trains can’t slow down like cars can, the tracks can be a goldmine for bones.
A lot of farmers have an area of the property where they put dead animals. If you ask, they might let you gather the bones from there. They might even take your phone number and call you to come pick up carcasses of animals which died.
I don’t live near any beaches, but apparently they can be great places for finding animal bones. You just need to find a beach which isn’t very popular. The great thing is that the bones on beaches are often already completely clean.
Deserts are one of the easiest places to find bones (though not the easiest to visit). The bones will probably already be clean and whitened from the sun too.
8. Owl Pellets
Owl pellets are a great place to get small rodent bones. It’s also really fun to pick apart the pellets (though not as fun to try to put all those tiny bones together to make a complete skeleton!). Barns are often a good place for owl pellets. Or ask online where people get their pellets – science teachers often use them in classrooms, so it isn’t a weird thing to ask.
9. Private Pet Stores
I’ve heard of people getting dead animals from pet stores or private breeders. You’ll have to call around and find someone sympathetic though. Make sure you explain that it is for “scientific research”! Don’t expect chain pet stores to give you their dead animals though. They have strict rules to follow about disposing of remains.
Apparently a lot of people leave their euthanized pets with vets to dispose of. The owners probably think that the vet is burying them somewhere nice or cremating the pet. But, actually, the pets often end up in a dump somewhere.
Whether it’s moral to take the remains of someone’s dead pet is debatable, but vets might happily give you the dead pets for “scientific research.” Just be warned that the dead pet will probably be frozen. If you just want the skull, you’ll have to snap or saw the frozen head off – neither of which is easy!
11. Vet Schools
When my daughter was 7, we went on a tour of the vet university in our city. The professors thought she was so cute that they gifted her a pig skull and horse teeth. 🙂 The university has tons of dead animals that the students practice on. You can ask if you can have the remains when they are done with them. At least they won’t look at you like you are weird.
12. Butchers, Meat Packers and Slaughter Facilities
Very large butchers will sometimes have entire animals. But you’ll probably have better luck at meat packing or slaughter facilities. You will most likely have to pay for the bones, but they should be cheap.
13. Your Friends
Once your friends know that you collect bones, they will start collecting them for you (at least my friends do! I have great friends :)). If your friends are too squeamish to pick up the dead animal, tell them to remember the location so you can go collect it later.
14. Buy Them Online
Several of the skulls in my collection I bought online. It’s not as fun as finding them yourself, but it’s a way to get specimens you wouldn’t find on your own. Just be careful that you don’t buy bones from people who boiled them to clean them. The can be damaged or really greasy.
Where do you find animal bones? Let us know in the comments section below!
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