Some yards have a scurry of squirrels. Typically they cause no harm, but they can be a nuisance. They can cause damage to gardens and bird feeders. Some may even attempt to take shelter in your sheds or sections of your home. They can chew openings through siding or unscreened chimneys.
When you have an abundance of squirrels living in your yard, you may consider catching some to reduce the population. Rather than kill and destroy, you may have thought about taking their meat. Early settlers would hunt and eat squirrels because they were damaging crops and seen as pests.
If you want to benefit from the resources in your yard, especially when the cost of proteins is on the rise, is eating squirrel meat an option?
Is Squirrel Healthy to Eat?
Squirrel is small game meat, but still edible. According to the Wild Harvest Table through the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, squirrels meat has 18 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving and is very lean.
The organs such as the heart and liver contain more cholesterol. The raw meat itself has less than 3 gram of fat and 102 calories. As with other meats, squirrel is a good source of B vitamins and iron.
The taste of squirrel has been compared to sweet and nutty. This relates to a squirrel’s diet of nuts, greens, and other produce that is available to them in the yard.
Why Eat Squirrel Meat?
Squirrel is a healthy option for meat because it is lean meat. Wild game can be healthy for people who are looking for low-carb/high protein diets. The health benefits of meat such as squirrel are a part of many meat-based diets.
Eating squirrel meat is not as bizarre as some people may believe. In fact, it is popular in other countries such as the Philippines. Chefs serve squirrel meat in restaurants in England because its flavor is similar to a rabbit but has a more gamey texture.
Squirrels are also a sustainable form of meat compared to farms. There is no need for squirrel farmers, squirrel farms, or specific squirrel feed for a special diet. A garden with trees that produce nuts is the minimum that you need.
Is it Safe to Eat Squirrel Meat?
One of the greatest concerns that people have with eating squirrel meat is that the animal is part of the rodent family. Rodents are often identified as carriers of diseases, which would get into the meat. Bacterias such as tularemia as well as worms can sicken a squirrel, thus sickening the human that eats them.
As is the case with some outdoor rodents, they can be bitten by insects like ticks. Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease that can get into squirrel meat. Salmonella is another foodborne illness that can also occur during processing if feces gets into the raw meat.
Another safety issue with backyard squirrels would be pesticides. You know how you treat your grass and garden, but you may not know what happens at the other yards that the squirrels may visit.
If you are processing your own squirrel meat, keep an eye out for inflammation, unusual spots, and other suspicious indicators of disease. Also, be sure to cook the meat completely to kill off any potential bacteria.
When Can You Eat Squirrel?
The best squirrel hunting times are during specified hunting and trapping seasons. In most states, it is illegal to kill squirrels. At certain times a year, one can obtain a permit in order to shoot squirrels, even those who are protected. If squirrels are damaging property, you may be allowed permission to kill squirrels with the right permit.
If you are restricted to a hunting season to gather and process squirrels, the hunting and trapping season is between September to January. Check with your local authorities for rules and guidelines in your backyard. Your town may have ordinances, but your unincorporated property may be more lenient.
Keep in mind that some states have protection on some rare varieties of squirrels. Black and white squirrels are still part of the grey squirrel family, but their fur color sometimes makes it illegal to capture. Flying squirrels are also protected in many states. Nests and dens are off-limits.
What is the Best Way to Eat Squirrel?
Before you can even start eating your squirrel meat, you need to understand squirrel cleaning and cooking processes. If you are not familiar with skinning and cutting wild game, see if you can find a professional who can. If you want to save money, there are numerous how-to videos online. Once you have processed the squirrel, you may discover that it will yield about a half pound of meat.
There is a slight difference between a red squirrel and grey squirrel in regards to their meat. This can affect what you can cook or how you can cook them.
You may choose to snack on it for yourself or spread it out with a hearty meal.
Squirrel can be used in place of chicken in recipes, but with its gamey texture, a longer cooking time will make the meat more tender. It is comparable to the dark meat of poultry.
Consider the following recipes:
- Squirrel and Dumplings – just like chicken and dumplings
- Belgian Squirrel – oven baked with time and prunes for sweetness
- Squirrel Country Sausage – make a huge batch of breakfast sausage for a great morning
- Biscuits and Gravy – a little bit of squirrel flavors the gravy for a hearty breakfast
- Beer-Battered Squirrel Tenders – great for tailgating
- Country-Fried Squirrel – with all of the seasonings and fried crust. Don’t forget the country gravy!
If you are looking for more ideas for squirrel meat, you can search on the internet for other tasty options with keywords like “grey squirrel recipes” or “red squirrel recipes”.