Are Squirrels Safe to Eat?

Carnivorous predators, including both domesticated and wild animals, have been preying on rodents since time began – as proven through recently discovered fossils. In fact, some of the first squirrels may have originated in China millions of years ago. Thanks to the development of tools and traps, humans have regularly hunted squirrels, as a source of protein, for the last 30,000 years (that’s a lot of squirrels). Because over 200 different types of squirrels span the entire globe, it’s safe to assume they are possibly one of the most-hunted mammals in existence. Aside from humans, coyotes, raccoon, and snakes all occupy the top slots in a long list of squirrel predators.

Whether you are a skilled hunter, avid outdoorsman or woman, or simply interested in self-reliance, educating yourself on the edibility of squirrels may prove to be of use later on down the road. Although the consumption of squirrel in North America may have first began with various Indigenous tribes, humans have been utilizing squirrel meat since they first engineered ways to trap them. With a variety of cooking options available, as well as various recipes, it begs the question: are squirrels safe to eat?

If you are considering an experimental taste of squirrel, you should analyze the following details to ensure the safest methods of cleaning, cooking and consumption. Exotic game meat has become increasingly popular over the past few years, which includes squirrel. As with many other mammals, it’s advisable to hunt them in the colder months. This is because warmer weather creates the perfect environment for numerous pests, including: fleas, ticks and other parasites. Hunting squirrel during the winter also helps to avoid Salmonella, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) – a rare brain disorder. Let’s consider a few other details, though.

Are Squirrels Legal to Hunt?

The complete legality of hunting and eating squirrel varies greatly upon your local laws. While some districts allow homeowners to hunt on their own property, others simply require a hunting license before anyone can take part in a hunt. These licenses may be applied for online, or in-person after specific criteria have been met. Most states within America have set forth regulations in regard to hunting any animal, with set dates as to when it is perfectly legal to hunt squirrel. With that being said, once you have satisfied all of the conditions, you may move onto solidifying your hunting and trapping plans, and tools.

Trapping Squirrel

Whether you are looking to catch squirrels for sport, or like to hunt them for food, there are a few tools that will get the job done. For example, squirrel snares are comprised of thick wire, sticks and bait. Once the squirrel has been lured into the snare, the trap will trip, causing the wire will tighten around their neck. Another method involves a humane wire cage, featuring a weight sensitive trigger plate. Once the squirrel takes the bait, their weight triggers the door and they become trapped inside.

Cleaning Squirrel

Properly gutting and cleaning a squirrel is one of the most significant steps to eating squirrels. Following even basic sanitary practices goes great lengths in avoiding issues such as contamination, wrongly placed punctures or cuts, and stray hairs. Considering how tough squirrel hide can be it is best to employ a simple squirrel skinner, to hold the squirrel in place. Begin by making a cut at the base of the tail, breaking the tailbone, and removing the skin down the spine toward the head. Any subsequent skin will pull off with ease. After removing the entrails, and giving the meat a good rinse, you will be left with a clean carcass, ready for cooking.

Cooking squirrel

Because squirrel is a particularly tough meat, comparable to that of rabbits and other small game, cooking squirrel calls for a specific set of requirements, and tailored recipes. Slow-cooking produces a mildly flavored meat, when paired with appropriate seasonings and vegetables, and is favored as a tried and true method in which to cook squirrel – producing reliable results each time. Simply braise the meat for about 9 hours on a low temperature. Buttermilk fried back legs are also a fan-favorite, while some recipes, such as squirrel puffs, transform this exotic meat into a meal with fancy flair.

On a more survival-oriented note, squirrel meat is known as a nutrient-dense source of protein – perfect for the self-reliant individual. Eastern grey squirrels, which are one of the most popularly hunted types of tree squirrels, provide 170 calories, and 4.5 grams of fat per 3 ½ ounces of roasted meat, on average. One serving of squirrel meat provides 20.4 mcg of vitamin B12, 14.5 mcg of Niacin, 1.2 mcg of vitamin B6, and 385 mg of choline, to name a few. Various minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and more. Squirrel recipes for small game hunters.

In fact, when you consider all the nutrients cooked squirrel meat has to offer, it makes it once of the most well-rounded survival foods with a palatable flavor anyone can learn to enjoy.

Learn more about squirrels

If squirrels have grown into a nuisance around your residential property, and you are looking for a way to diminish their presence, there are humane ways to repel them from your garden. Employing squirrel-proof bird feeders, where applicable, sealing any exterior weak points on your home, and utilizing live small traps to relocate them, are just a few of the ways you can lower the squirrel population. Most importantly, though, be sure to observe all of your local wildlife laws, especially in regard to relocation and hunting, as well as specified hunting dates. Before long, you will be enjoying your outdoor spaces and bird feeders, without the hassle of excess squirrels.

James T. Hume
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