the greatest depression

How to Make Squirrel Soup

Green is the new flattering.

Just because Congress passed the “Financial Markets Bill” doesn’t mean everything is going to be okay. The American economy lost 159,000 jobs in September alone. (October isn’t looking so hot either: As you can see here, our best friend just got canned!) “I think the future is going to be very cloudy. I think this is the beginning of many days of reckoning,” Bob Corker, a Senate Republican who voted for the bill, said today. “I don’t see how we avoid a true technical recession at this time.”

It’s a good thing we ordered Depression Era Recipes by Patricia Wagner while our Wachovia card still worked! We have uploaded her recipe for Stewed Squirrels to our recipes page; you’ll be happy to know it is both delicious and in season, and uses local ingredients. According to Patricia, “Grey squirrel is even better than red squirrel, and they are both better tasting when hunted in the fall.” And after the jump, Steven Rinella, author of The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, explains how you can trap one of those little buggers right here in New York City! Which is technically illegal. But these are hard times.

How To Trap A Squirrel

There are several effective ways to trap squirrels. Basically, you can divide these trapping methods into two categories: homemade deadfalls and snares, and commercially produced traps. The fact that you’re looking to trap a squirrel in New York suggests that you do not have the nuanced understandings of squirrel behavior and woodcraft necessary to produce and use homemade traps. Luckily, though, commercially produced traps are readily available and highly effective…if properly used.

Commercially produced traps suitable for the taking of squirrels can be further divided into three categories: box-type live traps (commonly used for humane pest removal and relocation); common snap-type traps (usually featured in cartoons starring mice); and small-framed body-gripping traps (designed for the commercial harvest of mink and muskrat pelts.)

Live traps eliminate the risk of killing non-target animals such as pets and rats. However, they are not practical for the emergency procurement of squirrel meat. They are expensive, their size attracts unwanted attention, and they require the trapper to dispatch the squirrel by hand.

By far, the most economical traps are the common snap-type rat traps available in most of the cities hardware stores. (DO NOT buy the mouse-sized traps; you want the big boys with the 7- or 8-inch baseboards.) The Achilles heal of these traps are the so-called bait-holders, which are insufficient in size and often result in bait theft. For greater efficacy, secure a piece of rubbery dried fruit to the bait holder using a small safety pin or a short piece of wire. Suitable wire can be unraveled from a picture-hanging cable, or taken from inside the cord of a discarded cell-phone charger. For added appeal, I highly recommend rubbing the bait with a little peanut butter or molasses , or, better yet, a combination of both. Before setting the trap, secure it to a plank (a hunk of wooden pallet works great) in order to hold the trap stable when it’s getting worked by a squirrel. Set the trap in an area frequented by squirrels. It is helpful to place it in an open area where rats are less likely to get into it. Rats like to stay near overhead cover, while squirrels are usually comfortable in open, park-like areas. Another way to avoid rats is to set your traps during the day and retrieve them at dusk.

Though they are considerably more expensive, serious squirrel trappers rely on the body-gripping traps popularized by commercial fur harvesters. They are strong, fast, nearly failsafe, and widely available from on-line trapping supply houses. Buy the kind suitable for muskrat and mink, usually described numerically as sizes 100 or 110. Once you get a few of these traps, get yourself an equal number of those square-topped 3-4 gallon detergent buckets that are always sitting outside restaurants on recycling nights. Discard the lid. Using a keyhole saw or hacksaw, cut a notch measuring 1 1/2 inches wide and 4 inches deep into one side of the bucket’s rim. This notch will accommodate the spring of the set trap, so that the body of the trap is held secure and blocks the opening of the bucket. Place the bucket and affixed trap in an area frequented by squirrels, and bait with peanuts smothered in molasses and peanut butter. Push a wooden stake through the spring to add additional stability to the trap; this will always keep your catch from getting away, though the squirrel is usually killed instantly and humanely with this method. Other guide sticks can be placed near traps periphery to funnel the approaching squirrel into the trigger and the jaws of the trap.

Good luck out there!

How to Make Squirrel Soup