Skunks, are they edible?

Skunk issues in the garden this winter have led to murderous thoughts. Those thoughts, in turn, caused an intemperate Google search which turned up the following gem from the March 1959 issue of Boy’s Life:

Incidentally, skunks are edible. The Indians ate skunk and so has many a trapper. I tried it, rolling pieces of cleanly-skinned carcass in flour and browning and steaming them in a skillet. The meat is light in color and well flavored. It is better than raccoon or opossum, but a skunk is bony and not as well padded with meat as a rabbit.

Not that I’m considering this yet. Somehow the thought of a locally sourced Los Angeles skunk is particularly unappetizing. And a reader mentioned that they kept a skunk as a pet. But I am curious to hear if any of you have tried skunk, raccoon or possum. Will we see any of these locally harvested meats on the menus of hip local gastropubs?

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  1. The first meat I ever allowed to pass through my lips was raccoon. Mama said I spit out meat, pushed it out, and learned to keep my lips tight when I was an infant. I was her only child who was anemic. So, she was frustrated.

    My father and seven of his eleven brothers and sisters lived in Memphis, so we ate together often. One of my uncles had killed a raccoon and dressed it. When they barbequed it, I suppose I wanted to try it. That was my last walk on the wild side–when I was about four-years-old.

    My father grew up during the Depression and knew no animal he would not eat. I refused to eat snake, turtle, squirrel, rabbit, frog legs, eel, crawdads. Well, those are the things I remember refusing to eat that he cooked. I heard they ate possum but do not remember a culinary encounter.

  2. I dressed, cooked and ate a raccoon last year that someone else caught in a trap and killed with a pellet gun. It was very good. I made soup (like chicken soup, only with raccoon) and biscuits and gravy with some of the rendered stink fat.

    A raccoon has a lot of fat on its back especially, and it has “stink” glands under its armpits that you have to remove. The fat, called “stink fat”, should be shaved off as best you can before cooking the raccoon because it’s just way too much fat and it tastes strong. I rendered this fat – it stays pretty liquid like chicken fat, so I put it in the fridge. A year later, I’m not sure if I would eat it, maybe I can make soap with it. But it was good when it was fresh, in a gravy. I’d say biscuits and ‘coon gravy is gamy but I like that. To cook the raccoon in all its fat would make it too greasy.

    Now, I have a skunk living in my basement, if I can catch it, maybe I can eat it too.

    Killing an animal for its meat is a mental hurdle, maybe farm kids get over it early in life but many people only see meat when it’s on a styrofoam package all cut up for them. I’ve killed mice before but nothing bigger so I expect this would pose a mental challenge for me. One guy I know uses live traps to catch raccoons and then drowns the varmints in a trash can full of water. That’s probably my only option since I live in a city, don’t have a pellet gun, and the noise from my using a bigger gun to shoot the thing would cause neighbors to call the police. (maybe I need a pellet gun)

    I wish starlings were tasty but they allegedly taste horrible. We have altogether too many of the little buggers around here. I would like to try pigeon though.

    • Jesus Christs! Just because an animal is a nuisance doesn’t mean it’s right to torture it. Shooting a trapped animal with a pellet gun or drowning it etc is disturbed.

    • In NC you must destroy any wild animal that is trapped. It’s the law due to rabbies. It is illegal to trap and relase. So you might think it’s disturbed to shoot one with a BB gun or drown one but it must be done to protect the other animals.

    • I wonder about other ‘black’ birds besides starlings. like red winged blackbirds etc. I remember Laura Ingalls Wilder writing about eating blackbirds that were destroying crops. She wrote that the whole family loved the meat.

      What a great post! I am fairly snobbish about what I will eat – the conventional animals mainly,but I do eat the offal at least, which most Americans seem to find gross. I live in a fairly red neck area and I remember talking to my neighbor who mentioned he was trying to lose weight, and eating mostly fish. I said -so no raccoon huh?, and he said, oh no, it’s too fatty. Teehee!

    • Please note that it is illegal to kill most birds in the US. The exceptions are the non-natives (specific species include House Sparrow, European Starling, and Rock Dove – aka common pigeon) and game birds (hunting license required). Everything else is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

      I did a post a few years ago on eating pests, including links to old-time recipes for house sparrows (and insect pests). Didn’t include skunks, though.

    • A “BB Gun” is not meant to kill an animal. It’s a weak airgun(toy really) used for target practice. It a slow, painful and completely wrong way to kill an animal.

  3. I’m a poster child for all that PETA isn’t. I can count over 100 different cute, scaley, and feathered animals that have lost their lives just so I could poke ’em with a fork. Squirrel and opossum have been on that list. Skunk and raccoon have yet to be so, but I suspect I’ll have a bunch of it this year.

  4. I’ve eaten raccoon along with many other “unusual” types of meat. It wasn’t bad, but I’d rather have squirrel or rabbit (to be fair those are two of my favorite things to eat though.) I’ve done quite a bit of hunting in my life and it’s afforded me the opportunity to try all sorts of things. My dad has tried opossum and says it reminded him of pork. Snake is okay. It’s kind of chewy- probably because it’s so lean. It also has a lot bones so you have to chew carefully. Crawdads are a delicacy down here and frog legs very well should be. Crawdads taste somewhere between lobster and shrimp. They make great gumbo but are usually boiled with lots of spices. Frog legs are mild like chicken but delicate like fish and are great fried or with butter. I’d probably eat skunk if someone else cleaned it!

  5. There was a recent episode of Nature on PBS about skunks, with various interesting tidbits of information, including a chemistry-based formula for neutralizing the smell involving peroxide, baking soda, and detergent. It mentioned that skunks can range over a few miles in their search for food, and can have a number of burrows in their territory. One thing that seems to attract them is cat food left out, and cats (they have been observed playing together).

    One woman who runs a skunk rescue group said that they hate deep noises, that if you have a problem skunk, at night time, aim a boombox playing something with lots of bass turned up at its den, and after a while it will leave. I have seen similar kinds of sound generating spikes to get rid of moles, I wonder if they would help with skunks? (For example, search for “mole chaser” at Harbor Freight.)

  6. No, but after cleaning up behind a squirrel that was trapped in my office, I started thinking real hard about Brunswick stew. But, we trapped it and released it in a nature preserve a few miles away.

    I did find quite a few recipes on-line though.

  7. In the same way that aubergines sound more exotic than eggplant, I’d expect the menu-ese to use “moufflette” or the like rather than “skunk”.
    Hmm… moufflette muffaletta, anyone?

  8. Never eaten skunk, but when we were overrun by a ground squirrel infestation a few years back, we had to trap and kill a large number of them (like 24-ish) before they started causing serious property damage. (NB to the PETA folks, ground squirrels are not tree squirrels, and they are neither endangered nor protected from hunting. We go for quick kills, if that helps.) After awhile we decided it was silly to waste meat that was, after all, raised on our garden fruit and veg, so my hubby made squirrel stew. It tasted like wild turkey. Even the kids thought it was OK.

  9. 12 years ago when I was moving from Columbus, OH to Iowa my co-worker’s threw me an Iowa themed going away party. One of the gifts was a road-kill cookbook. At the end of the evening one of my co-workers quietly asked if I was going to use the cookbook, and if not, could he have it. I gladly let him have it.

  10. The one time I went hunting with my Father in ’76, we shot a racoon. We tanned the hide while mom tried to cook it. Alas, we didn’t know about the stink glands. Even the dog wouldn’t touch it. The hide was made into a hat that still exists.

    I had woodchuck, but it was long enough back that I don’t remember it.

  11. Have eaten raccoon, squirrel, rattlesnake, rabbit, frogs, and plenty of pheasant. I’m not quite sure how one would go about hunting skunk or cleaning it, it sounds pretty stinky.

  12. i may be a dick (most likely am one) but if the skunk ate your veggies then i say you can eat the skunk free of any guilt.

  13. Dude, get a grip. Skunks can’t climb so protecting your plants is a lot easier then killing and eating skunk + in la it is a crime to kill a wild animal on purpose and comes with a big fine- and eating skunk is an unflattering euphamism besides. Churchill said something to the effect that -americans always do the right thing after they have exhausted every other possibility- so raise the beds 12″ and stop being so bloody
    american! Jeesh!

  14. My dad had a 22 shot gun for shooting deer and woodchuck that ate our garden. I don’t know if he ever shot a deer, but I remember Mom marinating and grilling a wood chuck. It was tough, but very satisfying! Dad was a pacifist, but felt no guilt about defending his family’s food from critters. I love that!!

  15. Raccoon makes a great pulled meat barbecue sandwich. You just have to be careful to remove as much fat as possible before cooking.

  16. I’ve actually eaten skunk before. The first time I tried it was in a chili. I’ve told many of my friends about this occasion and many of them simply don’t believe me when I say that it was some of the best chili I ever had. I can’t really explain such a taste, but simply advise that should you ever be given the chance, not to be afraid to try it – for me, it was worth it, and the next time skunk meat becomes availibe, I’ll definitely pick some up. That said, I’m a bit of a pioneer ‘eater’. I love eating all sorts of wild game, and have eaten a lot.

    A tip, for any interested in possibly hunting their own. You can’t shoot a skunk, if you shoot it, there’s a very good chance you will either rupture the stink gland or the skunk itself will spray. You need to trap it. Once trapped, you need to drown to – this ensures it won’t spray and you won’t accidentally hit the gland. When you’re cleaning it, you must also be very careful. If you hit those glands you’ll ruin the meat. It’s pretty complex compared to killing and cleaning most other animals. Perhaps that’s why its so delicious?

  17. Two meats I have tried and will never try again:
    Woodchuck aka groundhog
    and American Coot
    Woodchuck was greasy tough and tasted like 3 day old garbage
    American Coot smelt heavily of hydrogen sulfide
    -side note: my dog who eat everything also decline to try them.

  18. I’m eating skunk right now from the crockpot with brown rice. Tastes fine. I’ve eaten it before, but the crockpot skunk is the best I’ve tasted. Neighbors don’t want them, and it was clean, didn’t see any parasites. Watch for the roundworm.

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