If you’re a hunter, you might be tempted to pull out your shotgun if you notice different animals racing around your yard. You could even be wondering if you can eat the squirrels from your backyard.
The answer is most likely yes, and it also depends on where you live and how you answer a few other questions.
- The legality of killing squirrels
- Other factors influencing the safety of the meat
- The method of trapping or hunting
- The recipes that you can prepare
Can you hunt in your backyard legally?
If you hunt other animals, you understand the legalities of obtaining a permit or license, but it might be the same when deciding if you can eat squirrels from your backyard.
Even though there is a hunting season, if squirrels are a nuisance, you may be able to hunt them. Many areas empower landowners to handle these issues for free or for a small price for a permit.
While you think about whether or not you can hunt, see if you can also bait them. If you can attract them closer to you with appealing delicacies like peanut butter, you will increase your prospects of a successful bag.
Can you shoot or trap squirrels?
When asking if you can eat squirrels from your backyard, you’ll most certainly find various criteria for shooting versus trapping, as well as some additional requirements for seasons, limits, and methods.
Because squirrels are plentiful, regulations are frequently lax.
Eastern gray squirrels with black or white fur can be seen in some regions. Because of their rarity, a few regions have enacted laws to safeguard these differences.
You won’t be able to find them in those regions.
Are squirrels in your backyard edible?
The varieties of squirrels in your yard can influence whether or not you can eat them. You’ll also learn whether it’s permitted to hunt for squirrel meat.
In several locations, squirrel squirrels are endangered or have national significance.
From mid-September through the end of December, Grey and Fox squirrels can be hunted.
However, as a tiny game, you are only allowed to shoot five squirrels every day. The following are our primary considerations while we hunt squirrels for food.
- Squirrels are closely related to rodents and are infested with ticks, fleas, and other parasites.
- Some people employ poisons to keep rats away from their homes, and squirrels may consume them unintentionally.
- Pesticides offer a similar concern since squirrels may consume pesticide- or herbicide-sprayed crops.
- Squirrels can carry Lyme disease, encephalitis, ringworms, and other infections.
Squirrel types you can or cannot eat.
Some squirrels are endangered or have national significance in a particular country. The native Douglas squirrels, for example, have a special status in Canada and are routinely protected.
This is not true for Gray and Fox squirrels, which can be hunted from mid-September to the end of December. The daily restriction for hunting them as a small game should not be more than five squirrels.
You might not realize it, but squirrels come from various species. Some are red, some are brown, and many can fly. Can you, however, consume them all? Let’s find out more about them:
The Gray Squirrel, a native species in North America, is also one of the largest. Gray squirrels can also be found throughout Europe, primarily in Ireland and England.
Not only is their size appealing, but so is their safety. The only common disease they can transmit is Lyme disease, only if you hunt them in the summer.
These gray squirrels, as the name implies, can weigh up to 1.5 pounds. As a result, they are a favorite of many hunters and squirrel eaters.
The Fox Squirrel is another huge species. It has dense brownish hair and, like the grey variety, can grow to be about 1 pound in size.
The majority of Fox Squirrels are found on the East Coast. They can also be found far north, all the way to Canada, and far south, all the way to Mexico.
As you might expect, these are native to North America and are rarely found elsewhere.
These are likewise relatively safe to eat. However, they may be legally protected. Make certain you only hunt this squirrel if the regulations in your area allow it.
Red Squirrels are found all over North America, notably on the West Coast; they are distinctive in appearance and large enough to be edible.
These can grow to be as huge as Gray Squirrels and weigh up to 1.5 pounds. They prefer to live in the north, but they can also be found in the south.
You may go hunting for these pretty much any time of year. However, particular laws may apply in some places during certain seasons.
In comparison to other species, Ground or Barbary Squirrels can be found in desertic environments. They primarily inhabit New Mexico, Nevada, and other South-Western states in the United States. They are also available in the United States.
What distinguishes them is their light brown tint with antelope-like stripes on their backs, hence their name.
There isn’t much to be concerned about when it comes to eating. There is no study that says it is safe, but there isn’t one that says it isn’t.
Squirrels are good for hunting due to their usual size of roughly 1 pound.
The Flying Squirrel is the last and least frequent type of squirrel to consider eating. But there’s a catch. Most governmental entities safeguard these.
The species is threatened because it is smaller than a conventional squirrel. As a result, hunting or killing one of these is strictly prohibited. As a result, consuming them is out of the question.
If you have to kill one for whatever reason, it’s usually not a good idea to devour it.
They can be found across the northern and eastern regions of the United States, as well as south of Canada.
Do people eat squirrel meat?
Yes, people consume squirrels from their backyards, as well as from restaurants and shops that sell squirrel meat. It is more popular in southern states and cities, although it is also accessible in some eateries, particularly in rural locations like Florida.
When it comes to eating them abroad, they are most widely consumed in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
It may be available at numerous restaurants, both locally and nationally, and rats are also used. People consume squirrels in a variety of ways, depending on the dish.
What does a squirrel taste like?
Squirrel meat from your garden has been characterized as tasting like a cross between chicken and rabbit. Eating squirrels has a sweet and nutty flavor.
Squirrel meat is extremely lean and has a silky texture.
Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and even fruits and vegetables like carrots, squash, and other root vegetables are part of their natural diet.
The benefits of eating squirrel meat
If reading the downsides made you feel more fearful, reading the benefits of squirrel meat may make you less fearful. The sickness we explained is unlikely to affect you, but the nutrients in squirrel meat are guaranteed to help your health.
The taste of squirrel meat is similar to that of wild rabbit meat, although the squirrel flesh is a little sweeter and more delicate. This could be the effect of a day of eating nuts.
Regarding nutrients, it is also nutrient-rich meat that is helpful to your health.
A regular dish of squirrel meat contains more protein than chicken or cow flesh.
It also contains several vital nutrients and vitamins, such as vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, as well as some beneficial chemicals, such as iron and niacin, which help to keep our bodies healthy and active.
A 3.2-ounce serving of squirrel has:
- 172 Calories
- 30 grams Protein
- 5 grams of Fat
- 0 Carbs
- Various Essential Minerals
However, if someone has a heart illness or intolerance to cholesterol, they should avoid it as much as possible because squirrel meat has high cholesterol, which is not a desirable thing to have, especially if you have heart problems.
Is eating a squirrel safe?
The biggest issues when deciding whether you can eat squirrels from your backyard are the diseases these creatures carry indirectly or directly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies isn’t frequently a problem among small rodents.
However, we will not give them a pass due to the risk of contracting Salmonella from squirrels. There is also concern about tick-borne infections such as Lyme disease, which you should be aware of before deciding whether or not to eat squirrels from your backyard.
Pesticides must also be addressed. Because they endanger non-targeted animals and pets, most authorities do not suggest using them to control squirrels.
Even if you know better, it doesn’t guarantee your neighbor with a rodent problem isn’t using these products.
Wearing gloves while skinning and field dressing them and completing these tasks quickly will help you minimize the risks. When you’re finished, make sure to put the carcasses in the fridge quickly.
Can squirrels transmit rabies?
One of the major concerns concerning squirrels is whether or not they carry rabies. While some species do, the majority of residential squirrels seen in backyards and gardens do not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) verifies this.
While they might have it, the chances are slim. When it comes to rabies, you won’t have to be concerned.
Can squirrels spread Salmonella?
Salmonella is one of the rare infections that can be contracted from squirrels. Although rodents such as mice and rats are the primary carriers of this virus, squirrels may also be to blame.
To avoid infection, it is critical to cook the squirrel meat for at least one (1) hour on medium heat.
Is Lyme disease transmitted by squirrels?
Squirrels are frequently attacked in large numbers by ticks. This raises their chances of developing Lyme disease.
As a result, handling a tick-infested squirrel may result in infection. To avoid this, you can always hunt during the frost season, when ticks are dormant.
Tips for avoiding risks
- It is not difficult to determine whether it is safe or not from the outside. You can keep an eye on the squirrel’s movements and see whether it acts normally and isn’t scratching or chasing after water too much.
- Another precaution is to wear rubber gloves and a mask when contacting, cleaning, chopping, or even cooking. If you’ve followed those instructions, it won’t have those hazards when it’s cooked.
- As a result, if you inspect squirrels that appear to be healthy, you may surely kill and eat them out, making us rather safe to eat. Otherwise, you should avoid them.
In general, cook squirrel entirely until it softens and feels good, whether it’s fried or in a dish. The meat of squirrels is a little tougher than that of chicken or beef.
It will keep infections at bay and may even destroy them.
You can reduce the danger of illness transmission by taking these procedures and completely cooking squirrels.
How to hunt for squirrels in your backyard
The next stage is to capture the squirrels after you have obtained the permit to hunt in your backyard. We all know that squirrels are quite fast, and catching them will be an arduous effort.
As a result, we must devise a strategy or place bait to catch them swiftly and without wasting our time and effort.
Squirrels can be shot with a legal firearm.
This may appear to be a simple chore, but it is not. This is difficult labor. If you can’t aim, this isn’t the game for you.
Because if you miss the shot, the squirrel will flee, and you will not be able to see them in your backyard for a long time.
As a result, pay attention. When aiming at squirrels, ensure you hit them on the head rather than the body. It will perish on the spot if it is hit in the head. A body shot will harm the meat.
The bait or trap method is the second method.
Make sure that setting up a bait trap is legal as well. Bait and traps are unfavorable and unacceptable since they endanger other animals.
As a result, only use this procedure if your state’s department allows it; otherwise, use another method. Bait is not considered a proper method of killing an animal, especially if the bait is chemical.
Because the animal will die after a period of time and away from the bait, it becomes more vulnerable to other creatures.
They may also become prey for other species, and the chemicals in them may influence the predators as well, and the chemicals will be passed on to other animals. This is not good for our environment.
Advice on increasing your chances of having meat on the table
Any hunter will give you plenty of ideas on how to catch squirrels. The most important things to remember are to select the right environment and to use your senses to discover them quickly.
Squirrel tracks in the mud or snow are distinct and easy to spot. The toes on the front feet are four, whereas the toes on the hind feet are five.
When they run across the terrain, their back feet land in front of their front feet. Their track is distinct from a rabbit, which usually has one rear foot following the other in a longer stride than squirrels.
When you find one, always shoot it on the ground once you’ve confirmed your target. Squirrels are naturally cautious.
If you miss it, you will have alerted them, as well as any other creatures or birds in the vicinity, to the presence of a person.
We recommend aiming the head for a quick kill shot that will cause the least damage to the meat.
Wear a blaze orange to notify other hunters and non-hunters of your presence and follow best hunting practices. Stick to areas with a lot of food, such as near forests or waterways with trees like hickory, black walnut, or oak.
It may be beneficial to scout your hunting area before loading up to find the producing trees. Every alternate year, certain species produce nuts or fruit.
How to dress a squirrel and clean meat
This section will walk you through the process of field-dressing squirrels and cleaning their meat. Check out this step-by-step squirrel skinning guide for a more in-depth explanation.
1. Get a good skinning knife first and foremost.
Before you start dressing your squirrel, make sure you have a small, pointed skinning knife that can effortlessly cut through the hide and remove any undesired pieces of the squirrel.
2. Start cutting from under the base of the tail
With the squirrel belly-down on a strong, level surface, start to cut from the base of the tail down the back towards the head. You can remove the hide from the squirrel’s back by breaking the tailbone and pulling the tail.
3. Remove the front and hind legs
The front and hind leg bones do not need to be broken off and removed. Use a knife and gloved hands to remove the hide.
4. Remove the head, feet, and gut from the carcass.
Remove the squirrel’s paws and head with game shears, cut the chest open and take out the insides until the meat is gutted out.
5. Use a water hose to remove any blood, fur, or residue from the meat.
Before you begin preparing the meat for eating, make sure to wash it thoroughly.
Squirrel meat recipes
We don’t want to seem corny, but squirrel meat may be used in any recipe that calls for chicken. It’s mostly dark, with a little fat on top. It has a mild taste that isn’t gamey in the least.
A 3.5-ounce portion of roasted squirrel meat has 172 calories and 4.7 grams of total fat. An equal serving of chicken thigh flesh contains 184 calories and 9.16 grams of total fat.
With these nutrient profiles in mind, prepare the game in the same way that you would chicken.
The majority of hunters target fox squirrels or Eastern gray. They are larger than lesser species, such as red squirrels, weighing 1.5 to 3 pounds. This places it in the same weight range as a Cornish game hen.
As a general rule, the older and bigger the squirrel is, the slower you cook it. Braising is a great way to tenderize and flavor meat.
You should always use safe cooking techniques in the kitchen. Before starting your preparation, wash your hands.
Rather than using one all-purpose cutting board, we recommend using a cutting board dedicated to meat.
Using slow cooking
Cut the flesh from your backyard squirrels into 1-inch slices to prepare for consumption. You can also coat them in seasoned flour and brown them all over in neutral oil. Place the meat on a platter and set it aside.
We prefer to saute cut-up vegetables like carrots, celery, and onion until brown to add the delicious caramelized flavors. Return the meat to the pot and cover with vegetable or chicken broth—Cook for four to six hours on high heat or until the vegetables are soft.
You may also baste the squirrel in milk and use the liquid to make a delectable sauce. The acids will cause the meat to be tender, causing it to melt in your mouth.
This method is an old standby that makes a great tailgate feast instead of plain old chicken wings. Buttermilk can be used to make a batter, which will also make it tender.
Add flour and season with salt and pepper to taste.
We also recommend mixing in a teaspoon of baking soda. This allows the pieces to crisp up quicker and absorb less fat.
To assist the batter sticking to the meat, place the coated pieces in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet with neutral oil or butter to 350°F. To prevent overloading the pan and reducing the temperature of the fat too much, fry a few pieces at a time.
It should just take a few minutes per side for them to turn a gorgeous golden brown.
Serve with your preferred dipping sauce after draining on paper towels.
Beer-battered squirrel tenders are another twist on this theme. Allow the cut-up meat to marinade in beer with a dash of orange juice overnight.
Before deep-frying in oil, drain the pieces and roll them in a combination of flour, panko bread crumbs, and spices.
There are numerous different ways to eat your prepared squirrel meat. Some of our favorites are:
- Squirrel sausage
- Squirrel jerky
- Country-fried squirrel steaks
- Marinated squirrel kabobs
The possibilities are limitless!
What can you eat with cooked squirrels?
Squirrels don’t have a lot of meat because they’re small. We don’t advocate making the squirrel the major emphasis of your supper unless you’ve shot and skinned many squirrels.
We’ll be discussing some of our favorite side recipes to serve with your cooked squirrel meat in this section of the article!
1. Biscuits with gravy
Okay, so this is most likely THE BEST way to enjoy fried squirrel. Because the squirrel is so small, the biscuits and gravy serve as a hearty accompaniment to your fried squirrel dinner.
This is a great woodsy morning dish, but it also works well as a dinner dish, especially with fried eggs and orange juice!
2. Mashed potatoes and green beans
Serve your cooked squirrel-like chicken as fried chicken (or steak) with a substantial side of mashed potatoes and green beans for a typical southern supper you won’t want to miss.
3. Add the squirrel meat to the stew
So, while squirrel meat in stew isn’t strictly a side dish, it’s a substantial, nutritious, and delectable choice to explore. You can, for example, replace the chicken in your family’s chicken and dumplings dish with the squirrel.
Still, the squirrel in gumbo adds squirrel to a veggie soup, makes a potato, corn, squirrel stew, or prepares a toasty squirrel chili for cold winter nights.
4. Oven-baked garlic potatoes and carrots
You can’t go wrong with anything roasted in the oven, especially garlicky oven-baked potatoes and carrots. Make a sheet pan feast by baking the squirrel and vegetables together, roasting the squirrel and vegetables separately, and using the carrots and potatoes to fill the side dish.
If you’re looking for squirrel recipes, Practical Self Reliance has compiled a list of 40+ of the most delectable squirrel dishes we’ve ever seen!
So be sure to check them out if you’re looking for more inspiration.
Last thoughts on eating squirrel
When it comes to game meals, this may not be the first animal that comes to mind. However, their quantity and ease of preparation make them a wonderful and delicious choice for autumn feasts.
With similar preparation techniques, the nutritional content is comparable to that of dark meat chicken.
If you’re wondering if you can eat squirrels from your backyard, start with the legalities and work your way up.
You’ll find many methods to cook the meat while enjoying the delight of getting food from your farm for the utmost in locavore living.