Can You Eat Squirrel from Your Backyard? Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve ever wondered, “Can you eat squirrel from your backyard?” this post will tell you everything you need to know. Today we’re covering everything you need to know about eating squirrels, from how to catch them to how to cook ’em!

Can You Eat Squirrels From Your Backyard?

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from people is “do people eat squirrel?”

The answer to that question, as surprising as it may sound, is yes. However, there are caveats.

Before you go pretending that you’re on a season of Alone trying to win a million dollars by trapping and eating your neighborhood squirrel there are a few things you should know.

  • Humans have consumed squirrel as food for a very long time.
  • You can eat squirrels from your backyard, provided you have a hunting license.
  • Most states consider the red and grey squirrels game animals.
  • If you live in California, you will also need a permit to trap the squirrels.

Hunting and eating squirrels from your yard can be an excellent way to provide food for yourself and your family.

Squirrels are plentiful, especially in suburban and rural settings where people tend to feed backyard squirrel for fun.

Even though you can eat squirrels from your backyard, there are things you need to consider before doing so:

  • Is it legal to hunt squirrels in your backyard? 
  • Is squirrel meat safe to eat?    
  • When is the best time of year to hunt squirrels?
  • Once you catch them, how do you cook them?

There may be legalities and consequences of hunting and eating squirrel meat that you were unaware of. Let’s look closer at these questions.

Gray squirrel climbing on tree.

Is it Legal to Hunt Squirrel from Your Backyard?

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It is important to check with your state fish and game department and city regulations before hunting and eating squirrels from your backyard. Laws may differ in urban and rural areas as well.

It is legal to hunt squirrels in most states. However, you will need to check with your local agencies and see which specific methods of hunting and trapping are allowed.

And remember, just because it’s legal to hunt squirrels in your state, doesn’t mean it’s legal in residential areas.

In fact, there are a few states that the harvesting of squirrels is illegal.

Random Fact: Olney, Illinois, is strictly against hunting squirrels. Accidentally running over a squirrel will cost you as much as $750, and if you are caught hunting or eating squirrel you can face criminal charges!

How Do You Hunt Squirrel in Your Backyard?

Squirrel in a wire trap.

Hunting squirrels in your backyard can be as easy or difficult as you want to make it. You can use a variety of traps and hunting methods.

For obvious reasons, guns are not the best option.

A pistol would destroy the meat of the animal and a BB gun is unlikely to kill a squirrel.

Also, using a firearm in your backyard can have some serious legal implications. In fact, you could face charges, even on your own property!

A bow and arrow can be a good option, but you would need to be very accurate and have a high level of skill.

Remember, this is not the Hunger Games. A bow will require you to get close enough for your prey to see you. This can result in scaring off squirrels before they even come into range! Plus, it may be illegal to use a bow in your backyard depending on where you live.

The best option by far, if legal where you reside, is to use a trap.

There are two types of traps you can use for squirrels, live cage traps and kill traps.

Live Cage Traps:

Live cage trap allow the animal to enter but not leave. This is a humane way to catch your prey as they will be unharmed when released from the enclosure. You have no doubt seen one of these traps before; they are the kind that look like a wire mesh box with an opening at either end.

They can be purchased online and in hunting supply stores. Be sure to check all local regulations as well as federal laws for this method, it may require registration or licensing depending on where you live and what squirrels you are hunting.

Kills Traps:

These traps are designed to kill the squirrels so you can simply dump their bodies out of the trap once they have been killed or stunned by an action like a powerful blow to the head with a club.

Sometimes this is called “Clubbing” your prey, and it can be an effective way for you to get your squirrels.

Be aware, though, that this method can result in some pretty nasty clean up and you may not even be able to eat the meat off of a dead animal that has been hit with force like that!

You can also try setting up snares in your backyard for trapping squirrels. Snares are not legal in all states but can be a quick way to catch an animal when you have no time, don’t want to get messy with traps, or simply need to remove the prey from your yard quickly before children and pets find it!

The most important thing is that the animal is humanely trapped and killed, so there’s no suffering involved.

What Types of Squirrels can you Eat?

You can eat all types of squirrels, but your choice will probably depend on where you live and which squirrels are native to the area.

For example, those living in Florida may wish to stick with eating cat and fox squirrel because their meat usually has a mild flavor that is pretty similar to chicken or rabbit!

If you live in the Midwest or Northeast, however, it’s best to stick with eating gray squirrels because they are large and easy to trap.

Ground Squirrels,  which are the most common type in California, can also be eaten but may have a strong smell and taste.

If you do decide to eat ground squirrels they should be skinned first so that their scent is not transferred onto your hand while you handle them! In addition, they should always be cooked until well done with no pink left at all.

Red Squirrels, which are common in the Northeast, are smaller and usually not as easy to catch.

Eastern Gray Squirrels – These large squirrels can be found in the Northeast and Midwest of America. They are easy to catch because they usually don’t run away fast, which makes them a popular choice for novice hunters!

Flying squirrels can also be eaten, but they are pretty small so you might have to eat a few of them at once. They also tend to be tougher than the other types.

One thing to keep in mind is that each species has slightly different nutritional information and cooking methods. For example fox squirrels contain more protein than gray ones but also tend to be a bit smaller.

How to Cook Backyard Squirrel

Live squirrel popping it's head out between the grates of a barbecue grill.

Once you have caught your squirrels, assuming they are dead from a trap or clubbing, it is time to clean and prepare them for cooking.

Be sure that the animals were killed humanely using one of the methods described above before doing this next step!

The first thing you will want to do is skin it.

There should be little red bumps on exposed flesh; this is where hair follicles attach themselves to lay down new hair growth . Simply rub your fingers over the bumps and they will come right off.

Be sure to scrub them thoroughly with warm water before proceeding! Next, you can gut it or not; this is totally up to personal preference. If you choose not to gut your squirrels then simply cut off of their feet at the ankle joint .

After your squirrel is gutted and cleaned, it can be cooked in a variety of ways. You want to be sure to follow safe cooking practices to avoid any chance of contamination.

– Cook all meats to proper temperature (165°F)

– Minimize cross-contamination by using different utensils and cutting boards for meat than you use for vegetables or other foods. You don’t want raw squirrel juice in your salad!

If the meat is not cooked properly, it can be very dangerous and result in a serious case of food poisoning.

A few popular methods of cooking squirrel include:

– Roasting:

Wrap the meat completely with foil and roast on 375 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour -or- until they are tender when pierced with a fork or knife.

– Boiling:

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add squirrel pieces. You can also add seasonings like salt and pepper at this point if you’d like. Allow the meat to cook for about an hour until they are tender when pierced with a fork or knife.


If you’d rather grill them than roast or boil them, simply place your squirrel pieces on a hot grill and cook for about five minutes on each side. Be aware that the meat can be very tough so it will need to be cut into smaller chunks before cooking if this is an option for you. It’s not recommended that you try to eat the meat off of a squirrel leg, for example.

– Smoking:

This can be done in an outdoor smoker or on your grill; it’s up to you! Simply place the meat inside and smoke until tender at about 180°F. It should take about four hours total if smoking them with wood chips like hickory, oak or apple wood.

-Slow Cooking:

Since squirrel is lean meat, it does well in the crockpot which will result in a more tender meal.

It’s important to note that since squirrels are a dark meat without much fat, they can easily dry out if overcooked!

If you overcook squirrels during any of these cooking methods you can end up with some pretty tough meat that is not very enjoyable to eat.

What Does Squirrel Taste Like?

BBQ squirrel meat served on a plate.

Many people say that squirrel tastes like poultry; it is a white meat that can be quite good if prepared correctly.

The diet of the animal you’re eating will affect its flavor and texture, so keep this in mind as well. If your squirrels have been eating nuts then their flesh may taste nutty or even slightly sweet!

If they’ve been feeding on berries and fruits their meat can become quite gamey.

If you are not used to eating game meat, this is something that might take a little getting used to.

Luckily, there are a few different ways you can help to reduce the gamey taste of your cooked squirrel.

First, try soaking the meat in buttermilk for about an hour before cooking it. This is because acetic acid found in buttermilk helps remove some of the odor from meat and fish. So this step will also help to remove some of that strong smell.

Secondly, you can soak the meat in a brine solution made from saltwater and other seasonings for about 30 minutes before cooking it.

The best way though is just to get used to eating gamey meats like deer or squirrel! Humans ate this way for thousands of years before refrigerators and grocery stores, once you get used to it, you’ll probably like it.

Besides the flavor aspect though, there really isn’t that much difference in terms of health benefits between squirrel meat and other types of meats like rabbit, poultry, or beef.

What Are Some Good Squirrel Recipes?

While you may not be familiar with different methods of preparing squirrel, there are a number of recipes around the web that can help you get started.

Some of these recipes include:

Brunswick Squirrel Stew

This vegetable stew is usually made with tomatoes and features veggies like lima beans, corn, and okra. Potatoes are sometimes included in these recipes; others serve it over potatoes, while others leave them out entirely.

Country Fried Squirrel

This southern traditional meal is perfect if you’re a little squeamish about eating squirrel for the first time. Many people are willing to eat fried squirrel since it’s so similar to chicken fried steak. The squirrel meat is first dipped in seasoned flour mixture and then buttermilk-and-egg washed before being double breaded. The crust of this squirrel is kept crisp and flavorful by deep frying it. Young squirrels will result in a more delicate finished product, as will older squirrels that have more chew to them. It’s delicious served with green beans and mashed potatoes.

Cajun Squirrel

This recipe features squirrel cooked in a Cajun frying batter with spices like thyme, oregano, basil, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. You can eat it on its own or pair it with rice or potatoes!

You can also substitute squirrel in almost any recipe that calls for dark meat like duck, rabbit or other game meats like venison or wild boar.

Is Squirrel Good for You?

Squirrel is very nutritious and it’s also an excellent source of protein!

One ounce (or about 28 grams) of cooked, lean ground squirrel contains around 100 calories, with only seven percent coming from fat.

Its main energy sources are protein and fat, with about 33 grams of protein per one-ounce serving.

As for the amount of vitamins squirrel contains, it is rich in niacin (vitamin B-complex) which can help improve your metabolism as well as thiamine (Vitamins B-complex again).

It also has a good supply of vitamin A, folate, riboflavin, vitamin B-12 and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.

All in all then squirrel is a very nutritious meat that many people enjoy.

When Can You Hunt and Eat Squirrel?

The best time to hunt squirrels is during the autumn months. It is often the only legal time to hunt squirrels as well.

Hunting during this time can be a great way to stock up on food for the coming months.

Squirrels are most active during the early morning hours, especially in late summer and fall when they’re foraging for food.

You can also try hunting squirrel at dusk or dawn because this is when they are moving around their nests.

As with any game meat, you will need to age it properly before cooking and eating. This means hanging the animal in an airtight bag or container kept at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for no less than two weeks after it is killed.

How Many Squirrels Can You Bag a Day?

Squirrels that are hanging to be skinned and prepared to cook.

In many states, you are allowed to collect up to six squirrels in a single day.

Squirrel season typically begins around the first part of September and can last through January.

Even though the hunting season is long, it may become more difficult to bag the daily quota as cold weather sets in.

Still, being allowed to kill 6 squirrels a day will provide you with plenty of fresh squirrel meat to last you a while.

Is Squirrel Meat Safe to Eat?

Squirrel meat is typically safe to eat.

This is because squirrels are not at the top of the food chain. They typically do not eat garbage or other animals that could be diseased.

Still, you should always cook your meat fully before eating to kill any potential bacteria that may cause harm to humans if ingested raw.

Squirrels are rodents and as such are susceptible to:

  • Diseases that affect rodents. 
  • Parasites such as ticks and fleas that can carry disease
  • Poisons such as pesticides and herbicides 

If you read “diseases” and immediately thought of rabies, the CDC states that small rodents such as squirrels are almost never infected with the disease. There are other diseases that squirrels might carry that can be passed to humans. 

Do Squirrels Carry Diseases?

Squirrels can carry diseases that can be passed to humans.

For example, squirrels are the number one culprit blamed in the recent bubonic plague outbreak in California. These zoologic diseases can cause illness and sometimes death.

Another disease that can be caused by eating squirrel is Creutzfeldt- Jakob Disease or CJD. This is also known as Mad Cow Disease. It is only known to affect people who have eaten infected squirrel brains. The prognosis of CJD has often ended in the death of the patient within a year.

To avoid serious illness or death be sure to avoid:

  • Eating squirrel brains
  • Coming in contact with spinal fluid
  • Consuming large amounts of squirrel meat over a long period of time

If you hunt and kill a squirrel be sure to wear gloves while handling the animal. Be certain it is properly cooked before eating, and make sure that none of its meat goes to waste by roasting or frying up all pieces for your family’s dinner!

What Parasites Do Squirrels Carry?

Squirrels are also susceptible to disease-carrying parasites such as ticks which can carry Lyme disease and fleas that can carry bubonic plague. Taking care not to be bitten by these insects is important to your health.

Can Backyard Squirrels Be Poisoned?

Another issue with consuming squirrel meat is that of poisoning.

Whether the poisonings are purposeful or accidental, it is much more likely a squirrel will be contaminated in an urban area.

 Sometimes people will put poison out to kill the squirrels. Other times the squirrels may get into poison intended for other rodents such as mice.

The squirrel might also consume natural foods in an urban area that have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. These ingested toxins may affect the quality of the squirrel meat.

Can You Eat Squirrel From Your Backyard

While commonly considered to be nuisance animals, squirrels can actually serve as a delicious meal.

As long as you follow all the local laws regarding squirrel hunting and trapping squirrel you should be able to eat squirrel from your backyard.

Squirrel meat can provide several essential vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B12, Niacin, Zinc, and Selenium.

While it is important to properly cook your meat in order to kill any bacteria that may be present in the squirrel, many people believe that eating slow-cooked or grilled wild game, in general, provides a healthier alternative than commercially processed meats such as ground beef.

If you’ve been wanting to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle, harvesting backyard squirrel may be a good place to start.