One of the most common objections I hear from non squirrel eaters is that squirrels, or wildlife in general, are not safe to eat. This could not be further from the truth. Millions of people go out hunting every year and bring back everything from crows to whole deer, and squirrel hunting has been around for hundreds of years. It’s safe to say that, if squirrel was not a safe food, we wouldn’t be hunting them, and this website wouldn’t exist.
Fortunately there are several ways to tell if a squirrel is safe to eat.
Skin & fur
Some squirrels will have patches of missing fur. In most cases this is fine, but if the squirrel has a severe case of hair loss or squirrel pox then it is best to dispatch the animal and discard it.
When field dressing a squirrel, it is important to check the condition of the squirrel’s liver.
It should be a deep maroon color. If the liver is discolored or has white spots on it, discard the meat (better safe than sorry).
The way an animal behaves can tell you a lot about it’s health condition. If a squirrel is behaving abnormally, that is a red flag. Abnormal behavior can be caused by poison, although squirrels will generally avoid poison meant for other rodents.
A common question is, do squirrels have rabies? While rabies can be a cause of abnormal behavior, it is uncommon in squirrels and usually kills them before you have the chance of eating them. However, if you suspect a rabid squirrel, it’s best to throw it away. Some symptoms of rabies in squirrels include:
- Overly aggressive
- Foaming at the mouth
- Partial or total paralysis
There’s a catch here – the only way to observe a squirrel’s behavior is to observe it alive. This is yet another reason why I recommend live trapping over kill traps or poison. Shooting also allows you to observe the squirrel while it’s alive, but I like to see them up close rather than through a scope.