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How to Eat Roadkill

Eat Roadkill to Save Travel Funds — This travelogue entry suggests another way to save money to travel by eating roadkill. If done properly, roadkill can provide an occasional free meal when the opportunity arises. This entry also shows how to skin and dress a squirrel. Part of the philosophy of travel is to never [...]

Eat Roadkill to Save Travel Funds —

This travelogue entry suggests another way to save money to travel by eating roadkill. If done properly, roadkill can provide an occasional free meal when the opportunity arises. This entry also shows how to skin and dress a squirrel.

Part of the philosophy of travel is to never pass up a free meal.

Will one free meal ever have any real impact on your travel funds future or present?

Probably not.

But the outlook of always being on the ready for a free meal and taking them every time they arise will. Taken in isolation, one free meal gets you nowhere, but dozens — hundreds — of free meals over the years keeps your belly full and your legs a roving.

It is my impression that traveling, and by extension saving/ making money for travel, is akin to a philosophy — a way of looking at the world and your place in it. By saving a few dollars by scooping up and taking a free source of protein allows me to move a little further through space and time. By saving a few dollars by scooping up and taking a free source of protein also allows me to take an active part in my existence — to put my energy directly into my belly — and to feel as if I earned my miles traveled. Claiming, cleaning, and cooking roadkill takes work, but it is work that, if practiced as a rule, will take you around the world as many times as you would like.

A traveler’s main resource is money, to conserve resources at every turn is to have enough resources to go where you really want to go.

Eating road kill to save travel funds

Fresh roadkill is meat, fresh roadkill can be eaten like any other meat — given that you prep it yourself. A walk through the thoroughfares, parks, and boulevards of a city can reveal a generous splatter of pre slaughtered meat. Free protein lays underfoot everywhere, you just need to check it out, scoop it up, skin it, cook it thoroughly, and eat it.

This is not a money saving tip that probably should be applied with any regularity — I don’t imagine many travelers making a career out of eating roadkill — but only when the opportunity arises. This is a travel tip of opportunity — I would not let an entire pizza in a dumpster go to waste, so why would I let that freshly run down squirrel rot uneaten?

To do so would to be a chooser rather than a beggar, a picky scavenger.

I have had friends who have acquired large portions of their weekly protein allowance by scavenging parks for freshly smushed squirrels, but it is my feeling that the time/ food ratio of doing this may stress the bounds of what could be worthwhile: there is not much meat to be had from a squirrel, rabbit, or other small road kill delicacy. Therefore, as with most scavenging tactics, this is an activity of opportunity.

How to skin and eat a road kill squirrel

Only take roadkill that is fresh. If the animal is stiff, bloated, cold, has glazed over eyes, it is not fresh. A good piece of roadkill has a pliable body and legs and parts that can still be moved easily. Do not take a piece of roadkill that has already turned towards rigamortus. Do not even touch a dead animal that has already been feasted on my insects and maggots. Take only what has been freshly run over and is still warm and bendable.

Choosing a piece of roadkill to take home and eat is like watching an old lady pick out the best watermelon in a grocery store:

They pick all of them up, knock on it, listen to its insides, and then they pick the best damn watermelon of the bunch.

Choose roadkill the same way. If you did not see the animal get run over, inspect it well before taking it home. Try to touch it as little as possible with your bare hands. Poke it with a stick to see if is too stiff or bloated. Flip it over a few times to make sure that it is not already stuck to the pavement and being eaten by insects and worms. Look at its eyes — are they clear and black?

Ideally, I would not take a piece of roadkill that I suspect could be over an hour old. Ideally, I would like to either see that car run over the animal or be able to gauge the time of death by my familiarity with an area:

I know this dead squirrel was not here the first time I walked by here, therefore it must have been run over no more than a half hour ago.

Like this, you will be able to determine if the smushed animal is, in fact, fresh enough to eat. If you have any real suspicions about how old a piece of roadkill is or if it could be good enough to eat, don’t bother with it. As I stated earlier, one free meal in isolation is not going to get you very far — so taking an iffy piece of roadkill is probably not worth the risks.

Go dumpster diving instead.

Dumpster Dive for Free Food

But if you know that the easy meat was freshly killed, then scavenge it. Pick it up by the tail with a rag in your hand — if one is available — and try to touch the roadkill with bare hands as little as possible.

How to skin a squirrel

1. Put on a pair of clean latex gloves and get a sharp knife.

Roadkill squirrel on cardboard

Roadkill squirrel on cardboard

2. Lay the squirrel face down on a piece of cardboard or some other acceptable skinning platform.

Cut through tail bone but not all the way through the skin on the other side

Cut through tail bone but not all the way through the skin on the other side

3. Pick up its tail and cut it up from the underside through the tail bone but not all the way through the skin.

Make incisions through the skin in front of the hind legs on both sides moving towards the stomach -- only cut the skin and fur, do not cut too deep

Make incisions through the skin in front of the hind legs on both sides moving towards the stomach -- only cut the skin and fur, do not cut too deep

4. Insert the knife through the inscision that you made when you cut through the tail and cut around the front of each hind leg moving towards the belly. Make sure that you are only cutting the skin, do not puncture the stomach lining.

5. Flip the squirrel over so that it is now belly up.

Step on the tail and pull up on the hind legs removing the skin up towards the head

Step on the tail and pull up on the hind legs removing the skin up towards the head

6. Step on its tail and pull up on its legs. The skin should roll up over the body and towards the head. You are essentially turning the squirrel inside out. The skin and fur and tail should now be over the animal’s head. Make sure that the inside of the squirrel is still a little warm. If it is stone cold, then you may want to terminate the procedure, as the animal could not be very good to eat anymore.

7. Cut off the front feet and pop the front legs out of the skin.

8. Chop off the head. All of the skin and fur should come with it. Throw this away.

9. Cut off the back feet an remove the fur from the rear legs by rolling it down.

10. Remove the guts. Throw them away.

After the roadkill is skinned and gutted, wash the meat while still attached to the skeleton

After the roadkill is skinned and gutted, wash the meat while still attached to the skeleton

11. Wash the body.

Boiling roadkill squirrel

Boiling roadkill squirrel

12. Cook it as you wish — bake, fry, or boil.

If there has been too much trauma on one part of the body from being run over by a car, you may want to only use a portion of the meat. For this squirrel in the photos above, I only ate the hind legs. Not much meat, but more than what I would have had otherwise.

Cooked squirrel

Cooked squirrel

How to Save Money Books

How to Save Money to Travel Project

[seriesposts orderby=date order=ASC name=”How to save money to travel” ]

Filed under: Budget Travel, Cheap Food, Food, Save Money for Travel

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3396 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog (please help):

Wade Shepard is currently in: Rochester, New York

21 comments… add one

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  • david September 28, 2009, 2:22 am

    I guess you were talking about “Eating Roadkill Safely.”

    Just some additional notes for the really comitted / destitute traveller:
    1) Look left and right carefully before collecting your roadkill.
    2) Trust your sense of smell. A Cold stiff animal might be fine to to eat if you don’t smell any decay while buchering.
    3) Also – Raw meat that is slightly ‘matured’ is usually fine to eat if cooked thoroughly. Cooked meat that might have gone bad can be really dangerous, and should be avoided.

    So – eat up on the first day, and enjoy!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 28, 2009, 3:04 am

      Very true, David.

      I sort of pushed the “safety” aspect of this.

      Thanks for adding your suggestions, they are good.

      Wade

      Link Reply
  • reina September 28, 2009, 3:35 am

    Yuck! Really. Sorry, can’t help myself, I know, never scorn free protein, but this makes me gladder than ever to be a vegetarian. What’s out there for us?

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 2, 2009, 1:05 am

      Reina,

      I suppose the equivalent for a vegetarian would probably be old vegetables that you find in a dumpster that need to have the rotten pieces cut off haha which can be pretty gross sometimes, too.

      Link Reply
  • Debbie Goss September 28, 2009, 9:46 am

    Had it many times, but usually fried.

    A tasty meal if cooked right!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 2, 2009, 1:04 am

      Awesome, Deb, just awesome!

      Link Reply
  • hotspringfreak September 29, 2009, 12:29 pm

    Stopped on the way to Coos Bay, Oregon (Hobo trip to look for work)- fella I was with picked up fresh roadkill deer that waz hit by a Semi. Fish & Game found us down the road and at gunpoint arrested us & took us to jail. Spent a week in the slammer learning how to make Pruno (balloon wine = tang and/or fruit scraps and water + sugar and baker’s yeast…tie a knot…balloon swells then gets small…then drink.

    Illegal to pick up roadkill in Oregon – judge let us go for time served cuz we was from Idaho but now. the next case (a poacher) got 20 yrs. Bet he be drinking pruno now.

    Your mileage may vary.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 2, 2009, 12:59 am

      Good story, man.

      I have to laugh though, I can really picture you digging being in jail making pruno and talking to all the inmates. Yeah, it is illegal to take game animals that were hit by cars in a lot of places in the USA. It is sort of funny, as your case exemplifies a benign form of taking the roadkill deer, as you did not run it over as a form of hunting, but just took what was already dead. This is a real silly law in your case. It is good that the judge did not provide you will a deeper education of jail though. This story made me laugh. I am glad you got out.

      Are you still looking for work?

      Wade

      Link Reply
  • Bob L October 3, 2009, 11:04 am

    Yep, taking roadkill can get you in trouble. My dad was behind someone who hit a deer. In Connecticut, if you hit a deer, you can keep it, BUT you have to notify the authorities. The guy said my dad could keep the deer. My dad dropped it off and told me to take care of it, then he left for work. The game warden came a couple hours later. I was able to talk myself out of trouble, but the warden got the deer. All we got was the heart and liver. Parts I don’t like.

    At least I was able to make my pruno in a glass jar on my counter rather than a balloon in a jail toilet.

    Link Reply
  • friendly animal lover November 2, 2009, 5:01 pm

    ohh my goodness dat shidd i’sz messtd up no offence budt .[
    crazy craker’sz
    they’ed bee doin un natural thinqq’sz to all creature’sz here in da wourld
    \stupid ass’sz

    iim ouht ;

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 4, 2009, 11:15 pm

      Are you saying that eating animals is unnatural?

      Say that to the wolf.

      Link Reply
  • mike November 22, 2009, 10:56 am

    I would rather starve than eat roadkill!!!

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  • Tod November 22, 2009, 6:16 pm

    Mike: Someday you will starve.

    Link Reply
  • hannah November 23, 2009, 12:11 pm

    Good info to have…..waste not eh? Nothin wrong with eating some road kill if it hasn’t been there too long and hasn’t been too annhialated by whatever killed it. I’m not too sure about that pruno stuff though, sounds kinda funky. Wade, know anybody hiring? =]

    Link Reply
  • Heðin February 17, 2010, 4:58 am

    Greetings Wade!

    Thanks for showing this! I have been asking many a man about what to eat, and what not to eat(of squirrels, rhodents etc). I’ve been dreaming about going out; Living on the road.. I reckon I would like living out on the road, more than within this society. The rest of your site will be thoroughly looked at:)

    Farewell for now, perhaps we meet on the road;)

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 17, 2010, 8:11 am

      Thanks, Hedin,

      Hope to meet you too.

      Link Reply
  • Jaleesa Cappa April 9, 2010, 5:57 am

    The nutrition level of organic foods is much higher than the ordinary, chemical added plantation foods, the main thing is the not organic plantation they strike for faster grow rate of the plantations, hence it shorten the time needed for the plantation to accumulate enough nutrition and vitamin in it, instead pumping more chemical stuff for it to grow faster and bigger but not much good ingredients.

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  • Earthstranaut1 December 5, 2010, 2:24 pm

    Hi Wade it was a most enjoyable read when I came upon you on the web you are doing wot I would like to have done had I achieved the impetus to start travelling outside the UK I am in my 50’s now and have seen the window of opportunity dwindle to non-existence I wish you continued success,strength and means to carry on with your travels and sharing your thoughts and experiences with all who are interested via whatever meens avaliable to you.Thank you for sharing your experiences with people like myself and more
    TC and Happy & Safe Travelling M8ty.
    From Allister UK

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 7, 2010, 1:12 pm

      Hello,

      Thank you for the kind words. Though it is my impression that, while you are still kicking, it is never too late to travel. Get out there and eat some roadkill, walk slow. If you travel on your own terms, you can always set your own pace.

      Link Reply
  • Samui Guy February 27, 2011, 9:21 pm

    Oh! I am not sure that eating road killed animals appeals to me, or many others! I realize that poverty may require extreme actions, however, without knowing how long or by what, the thought of eating a dead animal that has been found on the roadside is not enticing.

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