For some of us, the idea of eating meat, in general, could seem repulsive. However, many meat eaters love to experiment with all kinds of meat, including ostrich, turkey, or wild meat. Beyond this, some meat lovers may wonder if you can eat flying squirrels. And if it’s safe?
As flying squirrels are part of a tribe of over 50 species of squirrels in the Family Sciuridae, it can be possible to eat them when correct safety measures are followed. However, Southern and Northern flying squirrels are endangered in many areas, and hunting and killing them for food is illegal.
Flying squirrel meat is not conventional meat you can order at your local restaurant, and there may be a reason.
Continue reading along as we discuss whether or not flying squirrels can be food and what may impact their potential to become your next meal.
Flying Squirrels As A Part Of The Squirrel Family
Northern flying squirrels, scientifically known as Glaucomys sabrinus, and Southern flying squirrels, scientifically known as Glaucomys volans, are the only two native species found in North America.
Both of them are gray-brown in color, but the Southern flying squirrel has belly fur that is grey at its base, and the Southern flying squirrel has white belly fur.
Southern species are much smaller, ranging between 8 and 10 inches in length.
Northern flying squirrels would be between 10 and 12 inches in length, making their size the most significant difference. Flying squirrels are very similar to any other tree squirrel and are cousins to other squirrel species in North America.
These squirrel species are known as the Eastern red and gray squirrels.
However, unlike most diurnal squirrel species, flying squirrels rarely come out during daylight, making them nocturnal.
Can You Eat Flying Squirrels?
Although there are several dangers of eating flying squirrels and other squirrels in general, we will discuss later that flying squirrels are illegal to kill due to their status.
Many habitat factors influence the Northern flying squirrel’s rapid decline in Pennsylvania, which includes the constant loss of confiner and mixed forests. These forests are declining due to development, especially in the Pocono Region.
Forest management practices are geared toward wood products, early successional forest dwelling species, and the declining health of hemlock forests.
As Nothern flying squirrels mainly have to rely on specific fungi that rely entirely on spruce and hemlock trees, they have less access to their most significant food sources.
Although flying squirrels are not big in size, these factors cause them to become aggressive competitors for these food resources and tree cavities to nest in.
This causes flying squirrels to seek other sources of shelter, and many other trees carry parasites that can either be debilitating or lethal to the Northern flying squirrel.
Studies conducted in Ontario and Michigan in Canada found clear evidence that the southern flying squirrel’s population is expanding rapidly northward, while the Nothern flying squirrel species is becoming smaller and smaller simultaneously.
In both studies, these massive shifts are clearly related to warming trends. Three subspecies of northern flying squirrels can be found in the eastern United States.
Two of these subspecies that reside south of Pennsylvania are currently listed as federally endangered.
This is one of the most significant reasons why it is illegal to harm, kill, and capture flying squirrels as meat or pets, and if caught in the act, you may be subject to a hefty fine.
Additionally, millions of flying squirrels are being trafficked into other countries illegally, and many of them die during transit.
Often, when people see wild animals as pets, their needs and requirements are completely ignored.
As a result, many die as babies or have short lifespans because they are in the wrong environment.
General Dangers That Come With Eating Any Squirrel
Whether the flying squirrel population is endangered or not, it is generally unsafe to consume any member of the squirrel species.
Even if you prepare the meat correctly, there remain several dangers.
Let’s take a look at some of these dangers:
Squirrel Meat Is Unsafe During Summer
During the warmer summer months, flying squirrels must constantly fight off ticks, mites, parasites, and fleas like any other warm-blooded animals.
Although you won’t get a tick-borne disease from eating or handling a squirrel, it brings you into close quarters with these little critters!
Squirrel Meat Could Be Contaminated
As all squirrels are considered wild animals, they eat almost anything they can find. Unfortunately, this includes food contaminated with environmental toxins, such as herbicides and pesticides.
Additionally, as squirrels are fans of dumpster diving, especially in industrial areas, they may consume rotten or moldy food, which could cause you to become sick when you eat them.
Squirrel Brains Should Never Be Consumed
Eating squirrel brains could be not only dangerous but life-threatening. For example, in 2018, a man contracted “Mad Cow Disease,” which is scientifically known as Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. This resulted from eating the brain of a squirrel or squirrel meat contaminated with parts of the brain.
This could easily be the case when somebody has hunted a squirrel with a weapon, where the squirrel’s brain could splatter into other parts of its body. This disease is deadly.
Don’t Eat Found Dead Squirrels
Though you may have never killed a squirrel, there is always the remote chance that the one you find was already dead.
The squirrel could have died due to disease, by a car, or other things. If a squirrel has been deceased for some time, its meat will rot and become very unsafe to consume.
Eating flying squirrels is not only unsafe, but it also endangers the entire species. We need to do our part in preserving them! So if you’re thinking of eating flying squirrels, think twice. It’s best to leave them alone in the wild and enjoy their natural beauty.
Additionally, if you find a sick or injured flying squirrel, contact professional wildlife rehabilitators immediately instead of trying to care for it yourself.
Providing proper care is the best chance it has for survival. By doing this, you can help preserve the flying squirrel population and keep them off the dinner table!
- Can I Kill A Flying Squirrel?
- When Do Flying Squirrels Have Babies?
- Do Flying Squirrels Hibernate?
- Are Flying Squirrels Nocturnal?