The fate of the grey squirrel is a strange one in the UK. For a country with plenty of animal rights and welfare organisations, combined with a common admiration for the agility and intelligence of this common garden animal, there doesn't seem to be too much volume in the voice to protect it. Instead, the English love of the red squirrel and sadness at its failure to compete with the grey, seems to be justification enough to warrant the extermination of this prolific rodent! If that is to be the fate of this furry acrobat, then what should be done about its meat?
There are approximately 2.5 million grey squirrels in the UK. I find it hard to imagine that any extermination plan will ever be successful, so managing the numbers as best we can is probably the only realistic way forward. Greys are blamed for the damage done to young trees through gnawing away the bark to get to the sap underneath, demolishing the contents of vegetable gardens and simply digging holes in garden lawns. If they can't be eradicated and wholly replaced by the red (who would likely cause similar damage) then management is essential. The result could easily provide a sustainable, healthy, food source for human consumption. The challenge of course is to convince people that eating a squirrel isn't the same as eating a rat and that you wouldn't be seen as odd to do so. Easier said that done I suggest!
However, before we get too carried away, management of the grey squirrel has been ongoing for decades and yet there is no large scale sale of squirrel meat as a result so maybe there isn't a market for it? Well, a number of more recent game and wild meat providers are actively marketing it for sale both locally and online. A dressed squirrel will cost you anything between £2.50 - £4 although you will need a few to create a hearty meal! The haunch is the most productive part of the animal for meat with the ribs having very little to offer apart from housing the tiny tenderloins. It is delicious though! On more than one occasion where I've presented an array of game meats to people who haven't tasted it before, squirrel meat has consistently come out as the tastiest in the blind tasting competition.
Harvesting squirrels is both fun and relatively simple. Air rifles offer new stalkers a real sense of adventure for those squirrels down from their tree tops, whilst shotguns offer a great killing ability once the squirrel is actively taking part in its tree top trapeze act. Traps are still legal, and whilst they remove some of the time required to actively hunt these critters, they can offer a useful management tool. You probably won't want to eat the older squirrels (identifiable by longer and yellower teeth than the youngsters) but your dog will love them! Getting permission to manage squirrels is likely to be an easier undertaking than permission for other wild game species so hunting these furry acrobats provides a great entry into countryside pursuits. Overall, managing the grey squirrel population provides benefits all round - management, hunting opportunities, and a healthy, sustainable and tasty food source.
Some online retailers for squirrel meat can be found here: