He is adorably fluffy and is often seen climbing trees in British parks.
But British authorities consider the “invasive” gray squirrel a pest as it is outcompeting the red squirrel, the only squirrel species native to the UK.
Wildlife experts are even encouraging restaurants to serve “nutritious” gray squirrels to help curb populations of this non-native creature.
Exmoor Squirrel Project says gray squirrel meat is well served in stews, pies and kebabs, although there isn’t much meat in a single animal.
So what exactly does gray squirrel taste like? Do you have enough substance for dinner? MailOnline finds out.
In the UK, the gray squirrel (pictured) is considered invasive because it outcompetes the native red squirrel for resources.
I received my squirrel from The Wild Meat Company, a Suffolk-based company that sources and sells unusual meats that are hard to find in supermarkets, such as goat, wild boar and rabbit.
Robert Gooch, director of Wild Meat Company, described the gray squirrel as a “non-native alien.”
“We should definitely eat the gray squirrels because they are being slaughtered anyway and if they are not eaten they are thrown away,” he told MailOnline.
For a few days, the shipment sat in a large box in my refrigerator, greeting me with a pang of fear every time I reached for the milk.
“There’s a dead squirrel in my fridge,” he told me over and over again.
I finally got up the courage to take it out of the box and it actually didn’t look that bad!
The ‘oven ready squirrel’ had been skinned and vacuum packed in plastic, similar to any other cut of meat.
The Wild Meat Company gave me a simple recipe to try: roast squirrel with pumpkin, sage, hazelnuts and garlic, all topped with olive oil and black pepper.
When I gathered all the ingredients on a plate, it looked quite inviting, almost autumnal, as if the creature had rested peacefully in the forest.
However, after almost an hour of roasting, it was a different matter.
Because the meat had hardened from the heat of the oven, one of the squirrel’s legs had begun to stick out in the air.
Oven Ready Squirrel: The Wild Meat Company sources and sells more unusual types of meat that are hard to find in supermarkets
Lovely squirrel: When I put all the ingredients together in a roasting pan, it looked quite attractive, almost autumnal.
As the meat hardened from the heat of the oven, one of the squirrel’s legs began to stick out in the air.
I also noticed the presence of hairs, although this did not discourage me too much because my diet in my first semester at university consisted mainly of pork cracklings.
I transferred the squirrel to a cutting board and began carving it, but the meat was difficult to remove even with a very sharp knife.
It’s not that the meat was tough, it’s just that it didn’t come off the carcass very easily.
Partly due to the intense physical effort of carving and partly due to the lack of meat on the carcass, all I managed to get onto my plate were some leftovers.
Another thing I noticed was how thin the squirrel was; Maybe I should have braised it or at least drizzled it with red wine every five minutes?
Squirrel is often described as tasting “like game, like rabbit,” meaning it has a stronger, earthier flavor typical of hunted wild animals, but I didn’t understand that.
For me, its texture was a bit similar to that of duck, while the flavor was more similar to that of lamb: not an unpleasant flavor, but not spectacular either.
My verdict? The gray squirrel is definitely interesting, but I would probably cook it differently next time.
Difficult to carve: It’s not that the meat was hard, it’s that it didn’t come off the carcass very easily.
Rare Breeds: A single gray squirrel doesn’t produce as much meat, at least compared to more traditional roasting.
If the gray squirrel takes off as the next food fad, I’m sure it will be in top restaurants, not home kitchens.
This is because there is not enough meat in a single squirrel carcass to feed an adult, let alone an entire family.
The Wild Meat Company sells an oven-ready squirrel for £4.95, which is pretty good for a specialist meat item from an independent butcher.
But considering you can get a whole chicken for less at stores like Aldi, I’m afraid roast squirrel isn’t cheap enough to become a Sunday lunch staple.
So if you’re a great chef, maybe consider introducing gray squirrel to your menu, as you could be doing your bit to save a threatened native species.
One of the chefs already serving gray squirrel is Paul Wedgwood at his acclaimed Wedgwood the Restaurant in Edinburgh.
Pictured are squirrel haggis, neeps, tatties, wild leek and mustard at the Wedgwood restaurant in Edinburgh.
He said the best way to cook it is to make a fine “minced meat” from the legs, spread it over layers of pancetta and roll it over the tenderloin, which helps keep it moist.
This can be served alongside a mini haggis made from squirrel offal and a sauce made from bone broth.
Wedgwood told MailOnline: “It is an invasive species that is devastating forests and forcing the near extinction of the native red squirrel.”
“It’s super filling and also super healthy and nutritious and tastes delicious. Why wouldn’t you eat it?”
Wildlife experts believe red squirrels, which have lived in the UK for around 10,000 years, could become extinct here within a decade due to the invasive grey, first brought from the United States in the 1870s.
In the photo, a red squirrel. The species is native to the United Kingdom and is fully protected by law. Wildlife groups carefully monitor squirrel populations and carry out targeted controls on gray squirrels in areas where red squirrels are endangered.
That’s why the government prohibits the release of gray squirrels into the wild, so you must kill them humanely if you catch them alive.
However, it is not entirely clear how, if at all, the humane killing of gray squirrels is implemented.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) told MailOnline that gray squirrels can become trapped in lethal “snap traps” as long as red squirrels are not known to inhabit the area.
DEFRA also suggests contacting an accredited pest controller who is trained to carry out trapping measures “legally and humanely”.
Alternatively, gray squirrels can be hunted, but only by “competent persons” and with “permission of the landowner.”