Prairie dogs are a burrowing rodent related to squirrels that live in the grasslands of North America. They’re primarily found in northern Mexico, the western United States, and southern Canada. In some areas, they’re really common and could even be a good source of food in an emergency if you could eat them.
Prairie dogs, like almost any other mammal, can be eaten. You aren’t likely to get sick from eating prairie dogs, but you should make sure that you clean and cook them well just to be sure. If you suspect that the prairie dog may be sick you shouldn’t eat it.
If you’re hungry enough then just about anything can seem like it would be a good meal.
Can You Eat Prairie Dogs
At first glance, it seems like prairie dogs should be the last thing you should eat. They spend the majority of their time underground in burrows and eat weeds. Not very appetizing.
Surprisingly, they’re actually very similar other types of squirrels without the big bushy tails. Their bodies are between 11 and 13 inches long and they weigh between 1.5 and 3 lbs.
It’ll take a few prairie dogs to make a meal but they’re easy to hunt and there’s normally plenty of them around.
How to Prepare Prairie Dog
Most of the meat in a prairie dog is in the back legs and backstrap areas. If you’re really trying to get every piece of meat off of them, then you can pull the little bit of meat from the rest of the body.
Bass Pro Shops has a great step by step guide to skinning squirrels with pictures. This also works for prairie dogs!
Country-Style Prairie Dog
- 2 prairie dogs
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 6 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 c. water
Cut prairie dog into small chunks of frying size pieces, salt and pepper then roll in flour until coated well. Put in a skillet of hot oil and fry until golden brown. Remove prairie dog and most the oil, then add water and bring to boil. Place prairie dog back into the skillet, turn to low heat, cover and cook for approximately 1 hour.
Oven-Fried Prairie Dog
- 1 prairie dog
- 4 eggs
- Olive oil
- Vegetable oil
Combine the breadcrumbs and flour. Cut the prairie dog into chunks and pat it dry. Dip it in the egg and then coat in the breadcrumb mixture. Place in a skillet with butter, olive oil, and vegetable oil.
Brown the meat for about 20 minutes. Place the prairie dog in a baking pan and pour the oil from the skillet over the prairie dog.
Campfire Prairie Dog
- 1 prairie dog
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
Cut the prairie dog into chunks and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can also use season all, season salt or your other favorite seasoning on if you want.
Sprinkle oil on the prairie dog and wrap in foil.
Cook over an open flame until well done.
What does prairie dog taste like?
People often think that any kind of rodent is going to taste gross and be something that you’d never want to eat. The truth is that most meat will taste okay if it’s prepared well and not cooked until it’s charcoal.
Most people say that prairie dogs taste a lot like other squirrels. The meat is dark, oily, and has a slightly gamey taste. It’s actually pretty similar to the dark meat found on turkeys.
If they’re cooked correctly, they’ll taste good and if they’re overcooked they’re going to be pretty bad and a little grainy.
Is it Legal to Hunt Prairie Dogs
Whenever you’re hunting any kind of animal it makes sense to first see if it’s legal before you start.
Prairie dogs are considered to be a nuisance around farms and homes. They ruin pastures but leaving holes in the ground that cattle and horses can break their legs in and can even attract rattlesnakes who hunt baby prairie dogs.
Because of this, ranchers and farmers will sometimes allow people onto their land to kill them. There are also areas where states have put up signs showing the way to known prairie dog colonies so people can use them for target practice.
In general, it’s okay to hunt prairie dogs as long as it’s okay to hunt on the land that you’re on. Make sure that you check the specific area that you’re going to hunt in prior to beginning your hunt.
What Diseases Can You Get From Prairie Dogs
Prairie dogs can carry any disease normally associated with rodents, the most talked-about disease associated with them is the plague.
Can you get the plague from a prairie dog?
Prairie dogs are only one of many rodent species that can carry the plague. Seventy-six species of mammals have been shown to carry fleas infected with the plague.
Plague is a disease caused by bacteria that is transmitted by infected fleas. Plague is found in rodents and their associated fleas throughout the Western U.S..
It is possible to get plague from prairie dogs but it will usually be very noticeable if the colony is infected. Within 78 hours of getting infected 95% of prairie dogs die. Because of this, it’s really unlikely that a prairie dog colony that is acting normally and heathy has any members with the plague.
Prairie dogs are common in the western U.S., northern Mexico and southern plains of Canada. Their numbers have been dwindling but they’re still a nuisance on ranches and farms where their burrows create holes that can break the legs of cattle and horses.
In a survival situation, prairie dogs could make for a decent source of food. Just make sure that you observe the colony for a couple of days to ensure that the prairie dogs are healthy since it’s possible for them to carry the plague.