Squirrels are one type of wildlife that occasionally visits our yard. Some people like to feed squirrels as they enjoy watching them. However, others see them as pests and try to get rid of them, hunt them down, and possibly eat them.
Is it possible to eat squirrels you find in your yard? Yes, it is possible to get squirrels from your backyard and eat them; however, things are not as simple as they used to be. Many factors must be considered, including the legality of hunting, hunting tactics, and is the squirrel meat safe to eat?
In our guide, you can learn more about eating squirrels from your yard; by the end, you’ll see how many restaurants prepare the same thing if you can kill squirrels and what potential diseases you can catch from touching and eating squirrels. (Read What Do Squirrels Like to Eat)
Are Squirrels Safe to Eat?
If you eat a squirrel from the wild, you could face potential diseases as it is these diseases, which rodents spread, either directly or indirectly.
Many have the same concerns when deciding whether to eat squirrels from your backyard. Typically, rabies isn’t much of an issue for small rodents based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, this doesn’t mean they are with no disease. For example, it is possible to catch salmonella from squirrels, yet they are prone to tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, which you can catch even before you eat squirrels from your backyard. (Learn How To Seal A Chipmunk Hole)
Anyone in the area can use pesticides, and squirrels can be infected from them, so even this you need to be wary of.
To reduce any risk, it is advisable to wear gloves when skinning the squirrel, and then you need to place it in the refrigerator as fast as possible until you are ready to use it.
Here you can find how to deal with a squirrel after you shoot one and prep it ready to cook.
Use a Good Skinning Knife
Before dressing your squirrel, you need a small, sharpened skinning knife. A sharp one will easily glide through the hide to remove unwanted parts of your squirrel.
Start Cutting Under the Base of the Tail
Cut from the base of the tail, across the back toward the head. Place your squirrel belly-down on a flat surface. Break the tailbone, then pull the tail and remove the hide from the squirrel’s back. (Learn How to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Garden)
Remove the Front and Hide Legs
There is no need to break off and remove the front and hind leg bones; you can remove the hide using your knife and gloved hands.
Remove the Head, Feet, and Guts
Using sharp game shears, you can snip off the paws and the squirrel’s head. Then, cut the chest open to remove the squirrel’s insides, and the meat is hollow.
Clean Meat Using a Garden Hose
Wash the meat before cooking to get rid of any blood, hairs, or residue.
What to make with Squirrel Meat?
Squirrel meat can be used in any recipe that calls for chicken. It’s mostly dark with a little fat. It has a moderate taste that isn’t at all gamey. 172 calories and 4.7 grams of total fat are in a 3.5-ounce portion of roasted squirrel meat, and chicken thigh meat has 184 calories, 9.16 grams of total fat in the same portion size.
You can cook the squirrel in the same way as chicken to keep nutrient profiles.
Most hunters target Eastern grey squirrels or fox squirrels as they are larger than other species like red squirrels. Such squirrels can weigh 1.5 and 3 pounds.
The slower you cook the squirrel, the bigger and older it will be. Braising is used to tenderize the meat while adding flavor.
In the kitchen, always use safe cooking practices before food preparation. For example, wash your hands and use a meat-specific cutting board.
- Cut the meat into 1-inch slices before preparing to eat squirrels from your backyard. You can also coat them in a seasoned flour mixture and brown them on all sides in neutral-tasting cooking oil. Finally, place the meat on a plate and set it aside.
- Add those caramelized flavors and sauté sliced vegetables such as celery, carrots, and onion until brown and tender.
- Return your meat to the pot and add vegetable or chicken stock to cover the ingredients.
- Cook for four to six hours on high, or until the meat is tender.
Instead of plain chicken wings, you can add a twist to your cooking using the squirrels from your backyard. Buttermilk can be used to make a batter, which also helps make the meat tender.
Season well with salt and pepper, then add flour and a choice of spices.
Add a teaspoon of baking soda, as this helps to make the coating crispier without soaking up the oil. To help the batter stick, place coated pieces in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with neutral oil or shortening.
Fry a few pieces at a time, which only takes a few minutes on each side to be golden brown.
Drain on paper towels and serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.
Beer-battered squirrel tenders are another recipe where you marinate the meat in beer and orange juice overnight. Before deep-frying, drain the pieces and roll them in bread crumbs, flour, and seasonings. (Read Are Peace Lilies Poisonous to Cats)
You can serve any of the above with French fries like a squirrel fast-food takeout.
One downside of squirrels they don’t pack on much meat. Here are a few examples of what to add to your squirrel meat.
- Biscuits and Gravy: The best way to eat is a fried squirrel, yet the biscuits and gravy make a filling addition to the fried squirrel.
- Green Beans and Potatoes: You can have your squirrel-like chicken along with homemade mashed potatoes and beans for a healthy traditional meal that you don’t want to miss.
Are Neighborhood Squirrels Edible?
The types of squirrels in your garden can determine whether you can eat squirrels. You’ll also find if it is legal to hunt for squirrel meat. Some squirrel squirrels are endangered or have national significance in certain areas.
The Grey squirrels and Fox squirrels can be hunted from mid-September to the end of December.
However, the total number of squirrels you can shoot each day as a small game is only five. As we hunt squirrels for food, the following are our key considerations.
- Squirrels are very similar to rodents, and they are full of ticks, fleas, and other parasites.
- Some people use poisons to keep rodents away from their homes, and squirrels can accidentally consume them.
- Pesticides pose a similar risk as squirrels could eat pesticide- or herbicide-sprayed crops.
- Lyme disease, encephalitis, ringworms, and more are diseases squirrels carry.
Is hunting squirrels legal?
Some states now have quite harsh rules regarding squirrels. Despite this, squirrels are game animals in most states, and you will be permitted to hunt them with a permit.
Often, governments or states establish a hunting season and control the methods and scope of hunting during that time.
However, it would help if you made sure to check local regulations as they vary considerably. For example, in Olney, Illinois, if you accidentally run over a squirrel, you could be fined $500 for killing a squirrel.
If you are in such a region, you’ll ask, can I hunt squirrels in my area? It is possible to be arrested for hunting squirrels in some states, while in others, such as California, you only require a hunting permit.
If you can hunt, the best hunting season to hunt squirrels from your backyard is after the winter.
Squirrels are illegal to hunt and kill as meat in the United Kingdom; however, they are legal to hunt and kill as pests.
Check with your state to see whether there are any hunting methods available. The most common way for hunting squirrels in the United States is using a bow and arrow or a crossbow.
Also, it is possible to hunt squirrels in your backyard with bows and arrows if you have an exclusive license and your yard is large enough so no arrow or bolt can find itself in your neighbor’s yard.
It is possible to use traps in some areas, yet you need to be very careful and wear gloves if you trap a squirrel. Squirrels are always the same as a rodent when in a trap and have very sharp and long front teeth. So put the squirrel out of its misery before you think about touching it.
What Does Squirrel Taste Like?
Eating squirrel meat from your backyard has been described as having a taste that is a cross between chicken and rabbit. Eating squirrels also presents a sweet and nutty taste.
Their natural eating routine contains walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and even fruits and vegetables like carrots, squash, and other root vegetables.