Southern Fried Squirrel

 

Once you have caught your grey squirrel what to do next? At present there are some pockets of red squirrels left in Scotland, Anglesey and the Lake District. Apart from these, there are few left in the wild. A once controversial solution offered by some of the preservation bodies and a few MPs … recipes. Grey squirrel is available from some game butchers, either whole or portioned. A friend of mine, Robin, mentioned yesterday that a restaurant near Morpeth in the North East serves squirrel curry.

For years rabbit and wood pigeon have been hunted for the duel purpose of pest control and food, so why not the grey squirrel? The country economy is often bouyed by this kind of activity and it is the incentive for some of the hunters. Should some of the quangos get there way then sales of wood pigeon by shooters would be unlawful. Would there be any incentive for shooters to help out the farmers, as they do now, if an income stream is cut off?

Once you have a prepared squirrel, what can you do with it? Squirrel is a fairly dry meat like chicken or rabbit, but probably best to think of rabbit in terms of the relative anatomy. The main portions are the legs and the saddle. All of this can be casseroled or stewed. A real restaurant dish would be bone the saddles, stuff with leg meat and trimmings etc. Wrap in parma ham and tie. This can be cut into slices and pan fried.

If you want something quick and easy, then there is Southern Fried Squirrel. Legs and portioned saddle is floured, dipped in egg, rolled in breadcrumbs (or your own propriety coating) and then deep fried. You could even go as far as curing this and hot smoking on the barbecue.

Is grey squirrel meat the ethical award winner? It is free roaming, naturally fed and a pest species, so maybe not far off the mark. The only downside with grey squirrel is that it is believed to be higher in cholestorol.

 

 

 

Grey squirrel

 

We have looked at the pest problem of the grey squirrel. The real difficulty starts when you decide you want to do something about it. First they are fast, second they are cunning and third there are plenty of them. If you keep within the various laws, you have a few options available when trying to rid yourself of the scourge of the grey squirrel.

Trapping. You can use snares if you think you know the route a squirrel takes but these noose like traps are really only best in hedges or under fences. Squirrels tend to prefer high altitude unless they are scavenging on the ground. Any trap that uses springs to capture or kill animals are pretty much illegal unless it’s for mice. So the last option is a humane cage trap. You bate the back of the cage with nuts and check every day, as you would a snare. If you have a squirrel in there you have two choices, kill it or re-home it. Re-homing means you have to take the cage to an animal sanctuary or similiar for them to take custody of the squirrel. At that point you get your trap back. As they are a pest species you cannot release them into the wild many miles away from home. To kill a squirrel you have to be humane, now is not the time for torture or revenge. Either grabbing it by the back and swinging its head onto a hard surface or a quick gun shot will do it.

If you are more in need of a spontaneous response, then the only solution is a firearm. Bows, catapults or crossbows are not allowed and to be honest you need to check your motives if you use any of these on quarry.  An air rifle has enough power to quickly and humanely dispatch, but not an air pistol due to its low power. While you can soup up and license an air rifle as a firearm the same thing with an air pistol creates a prohibited weapon. If you have access to a shotgun and it’s safe to do so, that is another option. A minor point here is in an open field a shotgun does not do much damage except maybe to the rabbit or pigeon. Most of the time a squirrel is not going to be on the ground but on the fence/wall or up a tree. If you stick to the air rifle there is little risk of getting it wrong. Squirrels have a habit of staying stationary on trees when they are being chased, they feel safe there against ground predators. This is the ideal time to take a carefully aimed shot. Even if you get the perfect shot the grey squirrel goes into a reflex spasm which looks like they are still alive.

The object of any form of hunting is pest control or food, anything else is morbid wrongness. Today we covered pest control, tomorrow …

 

 

 

Grey squirrel

 

I remember as a child learning my road safety from a cute squirrel called Tufty. As part of the education on how to cross the road I got a certificate. This still gets a mention on my CV. In the Lake District, where I grew up, the squirrels had overtaken one of the bird boxes in the garden and my dad would hand feed them hazel nuts from the window sill. Now these lovely animals also appeared in Beatrix Potter boxes and more recently as stars in the Gruffalo. All well and good but each of the above are all red squirrels, native species of Great Britain. They are being forced into extinction by an invader, the grey squirrel.

The grey squirrel is an aggressive, territorial animal that spreads disease and causes great damage to gardens. There is a illness called squirrel pox that the grey carries which is fatal to the red. Due to the rapid growth of the grey population and the power of the pox, red squirrels are isolated to small pockets of population. Years ago the public were urged to kill grey squirrels to the point where a bounty was paid for each tail presented at the local police station. In the wild they dig up bulbs, takes berries, nuts and bird eggs and ravage your cat.

As they are classed as a pest species you cannot release them into the wild. This was tested when a gentleman from Burton upon Trent drowned a squirrel he had caught in a trap. If he had handed it in to the RSPCA, hit it over the head or shot it, he would not have been prosecuted for animal cruelty. Part of the argument is that people find all squirrels cute and cuddly but they don’t realise the damage they can cause to your home or garden. Squirrels are excellent climbers and can empty mature trees of all their nuts and also get into roof spaces where they can wreak havoc on wiring and stored possessions.

With the current mild winter the grey tree rats have not hibernated. This can only mean of them foraging on the spring bulbs. The solution? Part one tomorrow …

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