Can You Eat Squirrel All Year Round? [Important Safety Information]


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Last Updated: May 2, 2022

Most of us see squirrels either as cute and entertaining or destructive pests. However, to starving survivalists, they’re a great source of protein and nutrition. 

Can you eat squirrel? Yes, in general, squirrel meat is safe to eat and delicious. It’s said to taste a little like chicken or rabbit, with a distinctly nutty flavor. The meat is finely textured, lean, and light in color.

However, you must take some precautions to eat squirrel safely. 

The Potential Dangers Of Eating Squirrel 

gray squirrel with nut

Squirrels are considered unsafe to eat during the summer. During the warmer months, squirrels, like every other warm-blooded animal, have to fight off parasites, ticks, mites, and fleas.

Although you can’t get tick-borne diseases from handling or eating a squirrel, it will bring you into close proximity with the little critters.

Parasites are less common and easily destroyed during the cooking process. Perhaps more worrying is the possibility of your squirrel stew being contaminated with environmental toxins, such as pesticides and herbicides. However, that’s true of any meat, and it’s unlikely a squirrel will have any more residual pesticide levels than the meat you get from the local butcher.

Eating squirrel brains, however, is potentially dangerous. In 2018, a man contracted Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, more commonly known as “mad cow disease,” after eating either squirrel brain or squirrel meat contaminated with parts of the brain. 

This can be easily avoided by removing the brains before cooking the squirrel. At the same time, you should also remove the glands as these can give the meat a musky flavor and may also contain diseases that you can’t identify physically.

How To Hunt Squirrel Legally And Ethically

slingshot

I’m sure you’re tempted to dash out into the nearest woods and bag yourself a squirrel but, before you go, you should make sure you’re not breaking the law. 

Although hunting gray squirrels is legal in most states, some restrictions are in place.

Most states only allow the hunting of gray squirrels during the winter months, which is fortunate as this is also the safest time to hunt and kill squirrels. Their parasitic load is lower at this time of year, and ticks and other critters are less active. 

It’s unlikely you’ll be allowed to legally shoot squirrels in your backyard if you live in an urban area, but the restrictions ease off once you get out into the wilderness. You may still need a permit or license and should check with your local Department of Natural Resources before planning a hunting expedition.

You might be tempted to try using one of these simple animal traps to catch yourself a squirrel or two. Unfortunately, you could be breaking the law by doing so. 

In many states, it’s only legal to hunt a squirrel with either archery equipment or shotguns.

Alternatively, you could consider using a slingshot to hunt squirrels. This is legal in most states, but not in all. States that outlaw the use of slingshot altogether include Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.    

Whatever approach you decide to take, try to make the squirrel’s demise as painless as possible while preserving as much meat as you can. Ideally, that means shooting the squirrel in the head area, which requires a high level of accuracy. 

You can make life a bit easier by using bait to entice the squirrel closer and keep it stationary for longer. Treats like sunflower seeds and nuts are irresistible to a hungry squirrel. Again, you’ll need to check if baiting is legal in your area before proceeding.

How to Prepare Squirrel To Eat

The simplest way to prepare squirrel meat is by using the techniques developed by the Native Americans. These involve burning the hair off the squirrel, rather than skinning it, and washing it only once it has been cooked enough for the skin to go brown and brittle.

A more complex but perhaps tastier approach involves skinning the squirrel and cleaning it before cooking. This video gives some useful tips on the best way to clean and cook squirrels. Armed with that information, the only other thing you need is the best small survival knife to perform the task.

5 Squirrel Dishes Guaranteed To Keep You Alive

#1 Roasted Squirrel On a Spit 

If you have any oil or seasonings to hand, rub these into the squirrel before cooking. This will enhance both the flavor and texture of the meat. 

Create a spit using sticks found around your campsite. Cook your squirrel over a fire with minimal flame, rotating frequently. This will prevent the outside from burning while ensuring the meat is cooked all the way through.

#2 Squirrel Soup

According to The Indian Cook Book, published in 1933, “squirrel soup is made by first barbecuing squirrels whole.” Once cooked, cut the squirrel into pieces and place it in a container of cold water. Add whatever spices you have to hand, and even a little ground birch bark to thicken the broth, and then boil slowly.

#3 Country-Style Squirrel

Cut the squirrel into small chunks and then season with salt and pepper. Coat the seasoned meat in flour and then drop into a hot, oiled skillet and fry until golden. 

Remove the squirrel and most of the oil from the skillet before adding water and bringing it to a boil.

Return the squirrel chunks to the skillet and simmer gently for one hour. Serve with baked potatoes, if available, or survival bread if not. 

#4 Brunswick Stew

It’s unclear whether this traditional, slow-cooked recipe was created by the Native Americans or invented by the African American chef Jimmy Matthews in 1828. Either way, it’s a great way of making a nutritious and satisfying meal from squirrel, assuming you have some veggies to hand.

Only the most prepared survivalists will have all the ingredients needed to create this dish. Still, a simpler alternative can be made using edible plants and wild roots instead of traditional vegetables.

Your squirrel should be pre-cooked and either pulled or shredded for this recipe. Heat some oil in a pan before adding whatever vegetables and stock you have available. Once the vegetables are cooked through, add any spices or flavor enhancers you have, along with the cooked squirrel meat.

Cook on low heat for approximately one hour and then serve with a side of cornbread or something similar. 

#5 Squirrel Croquettes

Pre-cook your squirrel, and then shred the meat. Combine the meat with whatever seasoning you have available, along with some breadcrumbs and milk. Once you have the right consistency, shape the mixture into patties and fry in a skillet over medium heat. 

The Benefits Of Eating Squirrels

Squirrel meat is very high in protein, containing more than either chicken or beef. It also contains important vitamins, including B6 and B12. You’ll get a good dose of niacin with every mouthful as well, which will help keep your digestive system working.

Conclusion

Not only can you eat squirrel, but you’ll probably enjoy the experience a lot more than would eating bugs.

Squirrel meat is an excellent wilderness food, full of protein and vitamins. You do need to take some precautions when hunting squirrels, both in terms of the law and your well-being, but, if prepared correctly, squirrel meat is both tasty and nutritious.

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  1. I started hunting squirrel when i was 2 1/2 riding on my fathers shoulders through the woods. Dad always insisted (at least until he had to switch to a shogun) in head shots. There were many days that there wouldn’t have been meat if it weren’t for those tasty little tree rats.

    Mom didn’t much care to cook them or rabbit so Dad did those, though all the other game she never flinched. I guess it was that things like birds and venison resembled farm meat.

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    • I live in a urban area and the squirrels are tearing up our plants and putting tunnels all over on the hill. I’m afraid they may cause our hill to slide in a heavy rain. I’m also not sure I could prepare them safely to eat. I’m a city guy but I need these rodents GONE!! Any suggestions?

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