Editor’s Note: Ye be warned. There are pictures and video below that you a) might want to make sure you’re not eating or didn’t just finish eating before you see and b) might consider even avoiding watching at work. In other words GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING.
There is a relatively new YouTube channel that is turning stomachs of viewers and, yet, with most of the videos getting an overwhelming thumbs up compared to thumbs down. It’s clear there is a side of people that just can’t stop watching it.
The Brain Scoop follows Emily Graslie, a volunteer curatorial assistant with the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum at the University of Montana. According to the channel’s Facebook page, it examines the “curious world of taxidermy, zoology, natural history museums, and the culture of animal preservation.”
So basically, Graslie is going to show you how the beautifully positioned and preserved animals you see on display on field trips actually came into being.
The Brain Scoop, which got started on YouTube in December, includes video of the museum’s backroom collection and the more gory steps of the taxidermy process of a wolf that was hit by a car.
First, they have to go get it.
The video starts with Graslie calling her contact saying she was on her way to pick up a wolf in the freezer that was being held for her. Except, she mis-dialed and accidentally called LensCrafters (it was probably the oddest thing they would hear that year).
“I’m really excited about this,” Graslie said once the 9o-pound wolf was in the back of the pickup truck. “It’s not everyday we get wolves. It’s especially not everyday we get an entire wolf. We get to do some good necropsy stuff. I love me a good necropsy.”
Watch “Getting the Wolf”:
A few videos elapse and then comes the skinning of the wolf. Here’s where things get a bit gory. The Brain Scoop even has its own “grossometer” gauge, which reads at the lower end of extreme with a score of seven for the skinning and some blood.
Before we get into the skinning, let’s talk YouTube’s policy. You might be wondering if YouTube allows such dissections that can make many in the audience squeamish — even Graslie admitted on Facebook she gets nauseous at points? According to its Community Guidelines, it doesn’t appear The Brain Scoop’s wolf footage would fall under some of YouTube’s crossing the line categories. YouTube does note that it is “not a shock site” and “gross-out videos of accidents, dead bodies and similar things” should not be posted. The scientific nature of the Brain Scoop and its graphic content warnings is probably what helps it avoid this restriction.
But as Graslie pointed out, some of the videos that are more graphic in their channel do have an age restriction. She said in a Q&A video about the wolf that she tried to appeal to YouTube, telling them the video was scientific in nature, but they held strong with the age restriction.
Back to skinning.
Part of the technique for skinning the wolf involves cutting through its thick skin but not so far that you’re cutting into the muscle. Another factor is avoiding cutting into the bowel area, which on this wolf appears to be bloated, suggesting gases have built up in there that Graslie does not want to release yet.
“Let’s try to describe that smell. What does it smell like?” Graslie says in the video. “It smells like KFC if you leave it in the back of your car with a layer of water at the bottom of the bucket in 100 degree weather for eight years. I’m continuously amazed by the things that nature produces.”
Here’s the skinning in 15 minutes, although it took a total of seven hours (Note: again graphic footage and some not-safe-for-work conversation):
Next comes the gutting of the wolf. With its “oceans of blood, visible organs and dismemberment,” the video gets a “holy f***” (redacted) rating on the grossometer.
As she cuts into the distended bowel section of the wolf — in a fume hood — you can actually hear a hiss of the gases being released. Turns out it didn’t smell as bad as she thought it would.
Seriously though, watch this if you choose at your own risk:
As we stated before, gross gory videos in the name of science is not all The Brain Scoop has going for it. Graslie hosts other videos showing what is in the museum’s backroom drawers and has Q&As with viewer questions.
In her second Q&A, Graslie reveals that she graduated with a bachelors in studio art.
“I have a painting degree,” she said. It wasn’t until her senior year that she found her interest in the museum and it was too late to change majors then. She is currently working toward an MA in museum studies.
Watch her Q&A:
The channel is produced by Hank Green and directed, edited and scored by Michael Aranda.
Follow The Brain Scoop channel on YouTube here.