Squirrels are wild animals you can easily spot in your backyard. They are edible, and they are fast becoming a delicacy of choice for most people who want something different from their everyday chicken, beef, and pork to tantalize their taste buds.
Squirrel meat is light-colored meat with a fine texture and flavor that tastes somewhat like a rabbit with a bit of chicken flavor.
The meat is quite sweet and has a nutty taste due to the kinds of things they feed on, mostly nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
Little wonder many people now resort to hunting squirrels for food instead of treating them as pests that invade their backyards from time to time.
But the one-million-dollar question people ask is, is it safe, legal, and humane to hunt and eat the squirrel I find in my backyard?
How to Tell If a Squirrel is Safe to Be Eaten
Squirrels are safe animals to be eaten if hunted from the wild; however, if they are the squirrels found all around us, certain concerns arise regarding how safe it is to consume them.
The safest time to hunt the squirrels in our backyard for meat is during winter when the weather is so cold that their meat cannot be contaminated with parasites and bugs, exposing one to disease infections.
In hotter weather, squirrels are prone to lice, fleas, ticks, and germs that carry diseases.
The concern from eating squirrels from our backyard is that they may have been poisoned by neighbors trying to eliminate them because they perceive them as pests.
Therefore, if one consumes these squirrels, they risk ingesting these poisons, which can be dangerous if not fatal.
Legality Of Hunting Squirrels in Your Backyard
Different places have different laws governing the hunting of squirrels; for some, it is legal all year round, but for others, it is only permitted at certain times of the year, while others allow squirrel hunting under certain conditions.
Hence before one can safely hunt squirrels for meat, it is better to know all the legalities involved because, in some places, violation of their hunting rules is termed a criminal offense and punishable by a fine up to the tune of $500.
Another question that needs addressing is the question of obtaining licenses for hunting squirrels.
In the USA, it is compulsory to obtain a hunting license before can hunt any game animal, even squirrels, even during legal seasons for squirrel hunting.
In some parts of Canada, like Alberta and Quebec, one does not need a license to hunt squirrels during the hunting seasons.
In Ontario, for instance, there is a cap on the maximum number of squirrels one can hunt a day together with other very stringent rules that apply.
In some places, too, certain species of squirrels are protected from being hunted usually, in most areas, it is illegal to hunt the flying squirrels.
For example, the Western gray squirrel is protected all year round in California, USA, while its Eastern counterpart can be eaten at certain times of the year.
For example, the red and gray squirrels are considered game animals in most states in the USA but no other species.
A visit to the animal conservation unit in your location will provide all the details regarding which squirrel species is game and which is not.
For example, it is illegal to hunt squirrels in some parts of Canada because they are considered heritage.
While the UK allows the hunting of squirrels only in the event of an outbreak of squirrels in which they are then considered as a nuisance and hence can be hunted; otherwise, it is illegal to hunt them in those parts of the UK.
There are different times when hunting squirrels can be a crime, even in places where they can be hunted freely. For instance, in Labrador, Canada, squirrels can only be hunted from February to March.
In Newfoundland, Canada, squirrels are considered a game for hunting in February; thus, this is the case of different strokes for different folks. These laws are mostly for the protection of these different species of squirrels from going into extinction.
Acceptable Methods of Hunting Squirrels
Just as different laws guide the hunting of squirrel places, there are also different methods of hunting them that are acceptable in some areas but not in other places.
For instance, the UK approves archery as a method for hunting squirrels, while in the US, the approved method is guns, rifles, pelleting guns, or hitting them on the head.
Other ways of hunting squirrels include using a squirrel trap like the A18 Grey Squirrel Trap, VS Squirrel traps, and WCS Tube Traps set in strategic places.
However, in most places, it is considered illegal to hunt squirrels by suffocation, electrocution, poisoning, drowning, and other inhumane ways of hunting these animals.
These methods of hunting squirrels are considered a criminal offence and have appropriate punishments meted to offenders.
Hence before you choose a method for hunting squirrels from your backyard, the questions to ask are: it is the right to hunt them, is this the right time, and am I using the method?
Is It Safe to Eat Squirrel Meat Raw?
Few red meats are safe to be eaten raw because of fears of diseases and infection, and so is the case with squirrel meat.
It is not advisable to eat squirrel raw squirrel meat is tough, and before it can become tender must be cooked for a long time.
Secondly, squirrels are carriers of pathogens that cause diseases and cooking them for long exposes them to temperatures that kill these germs; hence it is very important to cook these meats and cook them for long.
Some diseases are associated with frequent eating of this meat, but the most concern is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease [CJD].
This disease causes a brain disorder, and it was noticed in a man who frequently ate squirrels, especially the brain.
Other diseases associated with squirrels include ringworm, salmonellosis, and typhus. Therefore, it is not safe to eat squirrel raw because the risks far out ways the benefits.
How To Prepare Squirrel Meat
There are many delicious recipes that can be prepared, from pot chops to squirrel stews, but whatever the squirrel recipe of choice, we need to prepare these squirrels properly before they can be consumed.
The following are the steps to follow in preparing squirrels for cooking:
- The right tool should be made available, and the basic tools needed include gloves, game shears, a work surface, and a medium-sized fold knife.
- A horizontal cut should be made at the skin of the tail from one side to the other.
- The tailbone of the squirrel should then be broken.
- Begin to skin the squirrel ensuring that none of the hair gets to the meat because they are difficult to remove.
- The squirrel should then be gutted.
- The edible parts of the squirrel should then be washed by spraying them with a hose nozzle while discarding the head, the innards, the skin, and the feet, which are inedible.
- The meat is not to be eaten immediately; it can be kept on ice or refrigerated.
Skinning A Squirrel
There are many ways of skinning a squirrel, and the method adopted depends on if the squirrel is being skinned for fur or if the skin is being discarded for the meat.
Below is a simple method for skinning squirrels for meat:
- The squirrel should be laid flat on a hard surface on its belly. The tail should be raised with one hand while the other hand holds the knife. A horizontal cut should then be made from one side of the rump to the other.
- The tailbone should then be broken.
- With one hand pulling the skin and the other hand holding the knife, the skinning should begin with the knife detaching the skin from the squirrel starting from the back of the squirrel.
- A small cut is then made under the skin down the top of each of the squirrel’s hind legs, and then the hide is loosened, and then the skinning continues.
- Afterward, the squirrel should be laid on, with one shoe leg fastening the tail to the ground while still pulling the flap of the skin.
- Holding the hind leg firmly and pulling vigorously will peel the skin off the forelegs and head while the skin of the hind legs is removed by holding the squirrel body behind the forelegs with one hand and then pulling the skin underneath each of the hind legs to pull the skin off them.
Benefits Of Squirrel Meat
Squirrel meat is delicious and has so many nutritional values that fast makes it the meat of choice; some people even believe that they have some medicinal values, which is still under investigation.
Below are some of the benefits of eating squirrels:
- Squirrel meat is a rich source of protein whose protein content is higher than those of chicken and beef.
- It is also a rich source of niacin which helps the nervous, digestive system and keeps the skin healthy. It is needed to convert food into energy by aiding the enzymes in the body to do this.
- It has a high content of vitamin b6, which is necessary for cell function, brain development, and a healthy immune system.
- It is a rich source of vitamin b12, which helps keep our blood and nerve cells healthy, and lack of vitamin b12vcan cause anemia in the body.
- It is also a good source of fats and minerals.
- It also contains antioxidants which are natural molecules useful in neutralizing hazardous free radicals in the body. That is why many people believe that squirrel meat is good for arthritis, diabetes, and cancer patients because of its antioxidant effect.
Despite the nourishing goodness of squirrel meat, it is important to mention that it has high cholesterol.
Hence, while we hunt and consume squirrels, we should also consider some of the risks we expose ourselves to eating the meat.
Hunting squirrel is such a fun, relaxing, and fulfilling outdoor activity. However, we must be careful when, how, and where we hunt them; we should also be careful how we prepare and cook them to get the very best of them.
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Hope this article helped you determine if it is safe to Eat Squirrel From Your Backyard. You may also want to read How High Can a Raccoon Jump.
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