Fish & Wildlife | Sustainability | Ecotrope

Eating local squirrel: "It tastes like rabbit"

Ecotrope | Dec. 29, 2011 10 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:33 p.m.

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Seattle resident Melany Vorass decided to try eating the troublesome squirrels in her backyard, The Seattle Times reported this week.

She’d read about how the British promote eating non-native gray squirrels to help boost the native red squirrel population (with the mantra “Save a red, eat a gray”). And she’s a firm believer in eating local food.

She asked around and learned that she is allowed to trap and euthanize the squirrels and did a lot of research to find out they are are safe to eat. To get the squirrels to her plate, Vorass baits metal cages with crackers and peanut butter and, once they’re caught, she drowns them. She removes their head and feet, peels the skin off, and fixes the meat up into squirrel-itos and risotto di rodentia.

The American Veterinary Medical Association considers drowning the squirrels inhumane, and a King County Public Health veterinarian cautions people that while squirrel meat is safe to eat as long as it’s cooked to 165 degrees, getting squirrels to the cooking stage may expose you to diseases. She recommends using gloves, goggles and a mask when collecting the animals.

I noticed Paul@sw from Eugene had a positive response to the story. Here’s what he said:

“The gray squirrel does not belong in the NW. It was brought here by some well meaning easterners around 1900, I believe. When these rats with furry tails came our smaller native Douglas squirrel was displaced. These gray imports also eat wild bird eggs and nestlings. They eat bulbs and anything else they can get into their mouths. Eating them is great Idea. I may take it up too.”

One point of clarification here. According to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fact sheet, the Western gray squirrel does belong here in the Northwest. The Eastern gray squirrel does not. So if you’re looking at eating squirrels because they’re an invasive species, you might want to check and make sure you’ve got the non-native gray squirrel in your sights.

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