Beaver isn’t a meat you’re likely to find in a restaurant or grocery store, but it’s surprisingly palatable and healthy.
There were once over 400 million beavers in North America – a figure that quickly slumped due to the high demand for beaver pelts.
By the early 1900s, only around 100,000 beavers remained, and hunting bans were put in place to protect the remaining rodents.
Since then, the population has recovered significantly, and it’s once again legal to hunt and eat beavers.
Is Beaver Meat Safe to Eat?
Not only is beaver meat safe to eat, but “it’s also one of the healthiest foods available,” according to Canada’s health and social services department.
Despite that, some people have reservations about eating beaver meat, fearing possible contaminant exposure.
This fear comes from a 1999 study that found elevated levels of the heavy metal cadmium in several beaver livers retrieved from the Slave River Delta region in the Northwest Territories.
The researchers concluded that beaver liver was still safe to eat, “with up to 34 livers per year still being within safe levels.”
Some beaver populations may be exposed to higher levels of contaminants, including heavy metals, than others.
For example, the water systems in Oakland, CA, “are contaminated with lead and other metals,” which could make beavers hunted in this area unsafe to eat.
On the other hand, beavers hunted in the best states for water quality, like Massachusetts, are much less likely to contain heavy metals and other toxins.
As with most game meat, the best way to ensure your beaver meat is safe is to cook it to an internal temperature of 165 ℉.
What Does Beaver Meat Taste Like?
Beaver has a mild taste that some describe as being rather bland. Others say it resembles rabbit meat in appearance but tastes more like grass-fed beef or pork.
Beaver meat varies seasonally, and a beaver hunted in the spring will be much leaner than one that was killed in the fall after having the summer to gain weight.
Beaver meat was once a delicacy in North America, and the tail was particularly highly sought after due to its high-fat content.
The scaly tail of the beaver contains nothing but fat, something that few other game meats have in large quantities.
Beaver meat has a somewhat chewy texture, not dissimilar to jerky. It also has a slightly woodsy flavor and is both lean and succulent.
Is it Legal to Hunt and Eat Beaver?
In most states, the beaver is categorized as a furbearer and can be legally trapped or shot as long as you have the appropriate license and operate within the specified hunting season.
In many areas, resident owners are permitted to shoot beavers on their own land at any time of the year if the animal is causing damage to the property. No license is required.
Most states have laws against night-time hunting and make it illegal to shoot a firearm near water because of the potential dangers caused by a bullet ricocheting off an underwater obstacle like a tree or rock.
A high-caliber rifle is needed to kill a beaver and the best time to head out is at either dawn or dusk when beavers are most active.
Trapping is generally more effective than shooting, and a spring-loaded trap, also known as a body grip, is widely considered the most efficient approach.
You can also increase your chances by baiting the trap with poplar or castor oil, which will lure the beaver in.
Cage traps can also be used, although caution is required when handling a live beaver. Beavers have strong, sharp teeth that can deliver a painful bite. They also carry numerous parasites and diseases, including tularemia and Giardiasis.
While there have been calls for various states to ban trapping beavers on public land, the practice is currently legal and has few limits.
Is Beaver Meat Good for You?
Beaver is a lean, healthy red meat that’s good for you and your dog! Some exotic meat markets package and sell ground beaver meat specifically for dogs.
Beaver is a good source of protein and contains beneficial minerals, such as vitamin B6 and phosphorus. The liver is also high in both vitamin A and iron.
Although low in sodium, beaver meat is high in cholesterol, making it unsuitable for some people.
How to Prepare Beaver Meat
If cooked too quickly, beaver meat can be tough and tends to be at its best when slow-cooked until tender. Slow-roasting beaver in a low oven with a wine-based broth will boost the moisture content, giving you a juicy, tender dish.
Beaver meat can also be stewed, braised, barbecued, or smoked. The backstraps of the beaver are the tenderest cuts and are suitable for pan-frying.
Many recommend soaking beaver meat in salt water overnight to remove the excess blood.
You should also remove the castor glands or sacs between the pelvis and the base of the tail, as they contain a perfume-like liquid that can affect the flavor of the meat.
It is legal to hunt or trap beavers if you have the correct permit and operate within the specified hunting season. As a property owner, you also have the right to kill any beaver causing damage to your land.
Whatever your motivation for hunting a beaver, you’ll get a few healthy meals for your efforts.
Not only is beaver meat safe to eat, but it’s also high in protein and surprisingly healthy, although it is also high in cholesterol, so it should only be consumed in moderation.