Can you eat Squirrels from your backyard? (safe or not)

Written by: Helen Matthew

Updated on:

Do you want to know if you can eat squirrels or not?

is squirrel meat safe to eat or not?

Squirrels can be very tempting and delicious to eat according to native people. But in this modern age, is it safe to eat squirrels from your backyard?

We’ll answer this in a minute. But first, check out the things that you’ve to keep in mind:

  • The legal aspect of killing squirrels
  • Methods of Killing a Squirrel
  • Cleaning of the meat and eatable squirrels parts
  • Squirrels recipes

Can You Eat Squirrel from Your Backyard?

You can eat squirrels from your backyard if your state DNR (or Department of Conservation) permits the landowner (you).

Some states require a permit which can be obtained by paying a small fee to the authorities. Also, take special care when skinning the squirrel by covering yourself properly.

Can You Legally Hunt Squirrels in Your Backyard?

If you’re onto the hunting game, then perhaps you already know the process of getting a license or permit for hunting.

In the UK, you can’t kill a grey squirrel under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

In the United States, you’ve to contact your state department to know about killing squirrels and other rodents.

FYI, most of states will let the landowner kill a squirrel by trapping and killing in the least cruel way.

What is the best method to kill a Squirrel?

You can kill a squirrel by trapping it, and killing it with a BB gun or using a small gauge shotgun or small-caliber rifle like a . 22 are great choices for putting squirrels on the ground.

We’re going to discuss the pros and cons of each killing method:

Trap method | How to trap a squirrel?

Is it Safe to Eat a Squirrel?

When considering if you can eat squirrels from your backyard, the main concerns are the diseases that these rodents carry either directly or indirectly. Fortunately, rabies isn’t usually an issue with small rodents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, we won’t give squirrels a get-out-of-jail-free card because of the risk of contracting Salmonella from them. There’s also concern about tickborne diseases such as Lyme disease that you must know to figure out if can you eat squirrels from your backyard.

We also have to mention pesticides. Most authorities don’t recommend using them to control squirrels because of the risk it brings to non-targeted animals and pets. But even if you know better, that doesn’t mean the guy down the street with a rodent issue isn’t using these products.

You’ll minimize your risks by wearing gloves when skinning and field dressing them and doing these tasks promptly. Make sure to get the carcasses into the fridge quickly when you’re done.

Read how to attract flying squirrels in your backyard.

How do you clean a squirrel for meat?

In this section, we’ll be providing a quick guide to field-dressing squirrels and cleaning the meat. For a more detailed guide, check out this step-by-step guide to squirrel skinning.

#1- Have a Good Skinning Knife

Before you can even think about dressing your squirrel, you need to ensure that you have a small, sharpened skinning knife that can easily glide through the hide and remove any unwanted parts of the squirrel.

#2- Start with the Base of the Tail

And start cutting from the base of the tail, down the back towards the head, with the squirrel belly-down on a sturdy, flat surface. You’ll then break the tailbone, and pull the tail to remove the hide from the back of the squirrel.

#3- Pull off the Front and Hide the Legs

You don’t have to break off and remove the front and hind leg bones, just remove the hide using your knife and gloved hands.

#4- Cut off the Head, Feet, and Gut

Using game shears, remove the paws and the head of the squirrel, then cut the chest open and remove the insides of the squirrel until the meat is hollowed out.

#5- Clean the Meat Using a Water Hose

Be sure to wash the meat again before you start preparing it to eat.

What You Can Make with Squirrel Meat

We don’t mean to sound like a cliche, but you can substitute squirrel meat in any recipe calling for chicken. It’s primarily dark with some fat. Its taste is mild and not at all gamey.

A 3.5-ounce serving of roasted squirrel meat contains 172 calories and 4.7 g of total fat. A comparable amount of chicken thigh meat is 184 calories and 9.16 g of total fat. With these nutrient profiles in mind, you can prepare the game similarly to poultry.

Most hunters go after either Eastern gray or fox squirrels. They’re larger than smaller species like red squirrels, providing about 1.5 and 3 pounds, respectively. That puts it in the category of a cornish game hen, which runs about the same weight.

As a general rule of thumb, the bigger and older the squirrel, the slower you should cook it. Braising is an excellent way to tenderize the meat and add flavor.

Always follow safe cooking practices in the kitchen. Wash your hands before you start your prep. We suggest using a cutting board dedicated to meat than one all-purpose one.

Using Slow-Cooking

You can prepare to eat squirrels from your backyard by cutting the meat into 1-inch chunks. You can also dust them with a seasoned flour mixture and saute them in a neutral oil to brown all sides. Remove the meat to a plate.

We like to follow up with sauteing cut-up vegetables like celery, carrots, and onion until brown to add those yummy caramelized flavors. Return the meat to the pot, along with enough vegetable or chicken broth to cover the ingredients. Cook on high for four to six hours until tender.

You can also braise the squirrel in milk and make a delicious sauce from the liquid. The acids will tenderize the meat and make it practically melt in your mouth.


This method is an old standby that makes an excellent tailgating dish instead of plain-old chicken wings. You can make a batter using buttermilk, which will also make it tender. Add flour and your choice of spaces with salt and pepper.

We also suggest adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the mixture. That will help the pieces crisp up faster and absorb less of the fat. You may find it helpful to put the coated pieces in the fridge for 20 minutes or so to help the batter adhere to the meat. 

Heat a heavy-weighted skillet with neutral oil or shortening to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry a few pieces at a time to avoid overcrowding the pan and lowering the temperature of the fat too much. They should only take a few minutes on each side to get a lovely golden brown.

Drain on paper towels and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Another variation on this theme is beer-battered squirrel tenders. Let the cut-up meat marinate overnight in beer with a splash of orange juice. Drain and roll the pieces in a mixture of panko bread crumbs, flour, and spices before deep-frying them in oil.

There are plenty of other ways to enjoy your prepared squirrel meat. A few that we enjoy include:

  • Squirrel jerky
  • Squirrel sausage
  • Marinated squirrel kabobs
  • Country-fried squirrel steaks

The possibilities are endless!

What to Eat With Prepared Squirrel

Because squirrels are small, they don’t really have a ton of meat. Unless you’ve shot and skinned a lot of squirrels, we don’t recommend making the squirrel the main focus of your meal. In this section of the article, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite side dishes to serve with your prepared squirrel meat!

1. Biscuits and Gravy

Okay, this is probably THE BEST way to eat fried squirrel. Because the squirrel is so small, the biscuits and gravy make for a filling addition to your fried squirrel meal. This is a superb woodsy breakfast meal, but is also a great dinner idea, too, especially when paired with fried eggs and orange juice!

2. Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes

Treat your cooked squirrel like chicken fried chicken (or steak) and pair it with a hearty side of homemade mashed potatoes and green beans for a southern traditional meal that you don’t want to miss.

3. Put the Squirrel Meat in Stew

So, putting squirrel meat in stew isn’t necessarily a side dish, but it’s a filling, wholesome, and tasty option to consider. For example, you can substitute the chicken in your family chicken and dumplings recipe with squirrel, add squirrel to a veggie soup, put squirrel in gumbo, make a stew out of corn, potatoes, and squirrel, or make a warm squirrel chili for cold winter nights.

4. Garlicy Oven-Baked Potatoes and Carrots

You can’t go wrong with oven-baked ANYTHING and especially not with garlicy oven-baked potatoes and carrots. You can try making a sheet pan dinner and bake the squirrel and veggies together, or cook the squirrel and veggies separately and use the potatoes and carrots as a filling side dish.

Practical Self Reliance has gathered 40+ of the most mouth-watering squirrel recipes we’ve ever seen if you need squirrel recipes! So be sure to check them out for more ideas.

Improving Your Hunting Skills

Talk to any hunter, and you’ll get dozens of tips on how to get squirrels. The essential things to remember are to pick the right habitat and use your senses to locate them quickly.

Squirrel tracks are distinctive and easy to identify in the mud or snow. The front feet have four toes, while the larger back feet have five.  When they bound across the land, the hind feet land in front of the front together. The track differs from a rabbit that often has one rear foot trailing the other in a wider stride than squirrels.

When you spot one, always shoot them on the ground after being sure of your target. Squirrels are naturally wary. If you miss it, you will have alerted them and any other wildlife or birds in the area of the presence of a human.

We suggest aiming for the head for a quick kill shot that will minimize damage to the meat.

Follow the best hunting practices and wear blaze orange to alert other hunters and non-hunters to your presence. Stick to places with abundant food sources such as near waterways or forests with trees like black walnut, hickory, or oak species.

You may find it helpful to scout your hunting area before you load up to find the producing trees. Some species will have nuts or fruit every other year.

Also read: When Do Squirrels Have Babies? so you’ll know when not to kill squirrels.

Final Thoughts

Though the meat quantity will not be enough for a single person, it tastes. It is safe to eat squirrels from your backyard if it isn’t listed as danger species. Many places in the US banned the killing of grey squirrels.

When wondering if you can eat squirrels from your backyard, start with the legal issues and go from there. You’ll find a host of ways to cook the meat with the satisfaction of getting food from your land for the ultimate in localvore living.

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