Perhaps you find yourself drawn to the idea of embracing your survivalist instincts, envisioning a life immersed in nature and self-sufficiency when society inevitably crumbles. Alternatively, you might simply be an ardent outdoors enthusiast who thrives in the wilderness long before any doomsday scenario unfolds.
Regardless of how you ended up here, stumbling upon this article has undoubtedly sparked your curiosity about wilderness survival. Allow this guide to enlighten you on the crucial dos and don’ts of hunting reptiles in their natural habitat.
Discover which reptiles are suitable for hunting, learn which ones are best avoided, understand how to identify and capture them, and finally, master the art of preparing these creatures for a meal. For those who foresee meals consisting of lizards or snakes in their future, this article is an indispensable resource.
Which Reptiles are Suitable for Hunting?
When traveling in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s important to avoid certain venomous species of lizards. In the United States, the only lizard to be cautious of is the Gila monster. Theoretically, all other native U.S. lizards are safe to consume, although there is a risk of bacteria and parasites, which we will discuss further in the section on cooking reptiles.
It’s worth noting that most lizards you come across are relatively small and don’t provide a substantial amount of meat. Hunting multiple lizards will be necessary to satisfy your hunger. However, capturing lizards can be challenging due to their agility and speed. If possible, considering other species might increase your chances of success.
Removing the snake’s head ensures you won’t ingest venom. However, it’s advisable to avoid hunting venomous species (such as cottonmouths, copperheads, coral snakes, and rattlesnakes in the U.S.) due to the risk of getting bitten during the hunt.
For reptile enthusiasts, killing a snake that resembles a pet can be difficult. Keep in mind that most pet snakes are not native to the U.S. and won’t be encountered in the wild. If you own snakes as pets, consider whether you’d be comfortable hunting a creature resembling your beloved reptile.
Turtles are relatively easy to hunt as they move slowly and can’t swiftly escape like lizards. However, certain turtle species, like box turtles, consume mushrooms that may contain fungi harmful to humans. When consuming a turtle, you also ingest what they have eaten, which can pose health risks.
One commonly found and safe-to-eat turtle in North America is the snapping turtle. The challenge lies in catching it—be sure to handle it from behind the neck and tail, keeping your hands out of reach of its sharp teeth.
Crocodiles and Alligators:
Alligator meat is considered a delicacy and is praised for its high protein content and low fat in some regions. However, attempting to hunt these creatures in the wild for a meal is not recommended. Commercial alligator meat is sourced legally from alligator farms, and hunting these reptiles is only permitted in a few states, such as Florida and Texas, where you may need a special license or permit.
Hunting crocodiles is illegal in the United States, and being caught can result in severe fines. Both alligators and crocodiles can be aggressive, and without proper knowledge and equipment, engaging with them can lead to serious trouble. Unless you have experience and the necessary tools, it’s best to avoid hunting these reptiles to ensure your safety.
What About Frogs?
While frogs may share some similarities with snakes, lizards, and turtles, they actually belong to the amphibian class. In the United States, the majority of frog species are considered safe for consumption. However, it is essential to exercise caution and avoid brightly colored frogs as their vibrant skin serves as a warning sign of their poisonous nature.
You might be familiar with the concept of eating frog legs as a cultural delicacy. However, when it comes to survival in the wild, hunting reptiles would be a more practical choice. The reason is simple: Capturing a sufficient amount of wild frogs to obtain an adequate protein intake for a meal would require a significant effort.
How to identify reptiles
It is impractical to provide a comprehensive guide on identifying every possible reptile you may encounter in the wild. If you are planning to venture into the wilderness, it is crucial to conduct your own research beyond the scope of this article. Therefore, for the sake of brevity, we will focus on identifying dangerous reptiles that should be avoided.
When it comes to pit vipers, it is advisable not to attempt hunting them. This group includes cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes. They possess blocky triangular heads with well-defined necks, cat-like eyes, and thick, robust bodies. These venomous snakes can be consumed in dire circumstances, but the risks associated with hunting them often outweigh the benefits of acquiring snake meat.
Additionally, it is recommended to steer clear of box turtles due to their tendency to consume poisonous mushrooms. These turtles can be identified by their high-domed, ridged carapaces that flare out at the edges. They also exhibit distinctive skin patterns in shades of brown, yellow, and orange.
How to Hunt
The methods employed for hunting will depend on the equipment available to you, but they generally fall into two main categories: hunting and trapping.
When engaging in hunting, it is vital to maintain constant awareness of your surroundings. Avoid becoming so fixated on your prey that you fail to notice potential hazards, such as approaching the edge of a precipice. For hunting, there are numerous possibilities to consider. You can utilize a firearm, bow, spear, slingshot, knife, or even a rock to immobilize the targeted reptile.
To effectively trap a reptile, particularly turtles and certain snakes, the recommended approach involves creating a hole with steep sides from which the reptile cannot escape. As for bait, you can utilize a combination of vegetation, fungi, or insects based on the preferences of your intended prey.
Here are five reptiles that can be effectively hunted in the wild, along with additional information on how to hunt or trap them:
Green iguanas are considered invasive species in Florida, and the state encourages their hunting. In the Caribbean, they are often referred to as “pollo de los árboles” or “chicken of the trees.” To hunt iguanas, it is recommended to use a firearm or a bow to ensure accuracy and a swift kill. Approach cautiously and take aim at their head for an effective hunt.
Black rat snake
The black rat snake, also known as the Western rat snake or black snake, is an excellent choice for novice reptile hunters. These snakes are harmless to humans, and their long and thick bodies provide a substantial amount of meat per animal. Hunting black rat snakes can be done using a firearm, a bow, or a spear. Aim for the head or neck to dispatch them quickly.
Garter snakes, although relatively slender and offering less meat compared to larger reptiles, have a significant advantage of being prolific across the United States. They are one of the most common snake species in the country. Garter snakes can be captured by hand or with the aid of a snake hook or snake tongs. Ensure proper identification to avoid mistakenly hunting venomous snakes.
Red-eared sliders are the most popular turtle species in the American pet trade. However, due to frequent abandonment, they have become classified as invasive species in many states. To hunt red-eared sliders, the most effective method is through trapping. Construct traps using wire mesh or use baited lines with hooks. Ensure compliance with local regulations regarding hunting or trapping turtles.
Snapping turtles are large terrapins found across the Eastern United States. They are professionally harvested for food in certain regions and make for a hearty and protein-rich meal. When hunting snapping turtles, it is crucial to exercise caution due to their powerful jaws and sharp claws. The most effective method is to trap them using baited wire mesh traps or hoop nets submerged in water.
Argentine Black and White Tegu
Native to South America, Argentine Black and White Tegus have become invasive species in Georgia. As the largest tegu lizards, growing up to 2 feet in length, they can provide a substantial amount of meat. When hunting tegus, it is advisable to use a firearm, bow, or a sturdy snare trap. Aim for a quick and humane kill.
How to prepare reptile meat for consumption
One crucial takeaway from this article is the importance of thoroughly cooking any reptile meat before consuming it. Regardless of whether you have chosen a nonvenomous and nonpoisonous species, wild animals, including reptiles, carry bacteria and parasites that can lead to infection and illness if ingested.
Reptiles, in particular, are notorious carriers of salmonella bacteria, which reside in their digestive tracts. Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine if a reptile carries the bacteria until it’s too late. Symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. However, there is a simple step you can take to significantly reduce the risk of contracting salmonella: cooking the reptile thoroughly. Cooking the meat will effectively kill the bacteria, ensuring a safer and more palatable meal. Additionally, remember to wash your hands, cooking surfaces, and utensils that have come into contact with raw reptile meat.
When in the wilderness and consuming reptiles, you may not have access to fancy cooking equipment like a George Foreman grill. However, you can still safely cook your fresh meat without any elaborate tools. Start by boiling the reptile in water to sanitize it, and then roast it over a fire to achieve a desirable sear. If you have access to additional ingredients, consider preparing snake tacos or iguana stew for a more satisfying and well-rounded meal.
After finishing your meal, it is crucial to dispose of any remaining remnants such as bones and skin far away from your campsite. Leaving these leftovers around can attract scavengers, putting you at risk. Additionally, any unwanted pieces of meat or organs can be repurposed as bait for fishing and trapping, allowing you to make the most of your meal by potentially securing a second source of sustenance.
Remember, proper cooking, hygiene, and responsible waste disposal are essential for ensuring a safe and enjoyable dining experience when consuming reptile meat in the wilderness.
When navigating the challenges of wilderness survival, it’s wise to initially focus on seeking out commonly consumed animals like mammals and fish. However, should the situation demand it, a diverse range of reptiles can provide sustenance as well. It is crucial to prioritize safe-to-hunt and eat reptiles while ensuring meticulous cooking techniques before indulging in your wild feast.
Remember, making informed choices and following proper cooking procedures are paramount for a successful and nourishing wilderness dining experience.