How Desperate Would You Have To Be To Eat A Prairie Dog?

When it comes to gross things to eat in a survival situation, Wyoming has quite a few options, but it raises the question — who would resort to campfire-roasted prairie dog?

Mark Heinz

October 02, 20235 min read

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(Getty Images)

When you don’t have much of a choice, cold worms are a good source of calories and protein.

At least that’s what Jesse Butts told Cowboy State Daily his uncle figured when he once got stuck out after dark while on a fishing trip back in the 1970s.

“He figured, ‘I’m hungry, and I’ve got to eat something. He hadn’t caught any fish, so he ate his worms,” said Butts, who works in the sporting goods section of the Laramie Murdoch’s store.


Granted, his uncle Don (last name withheld) was tougher than most —not only in stomach, but overall fortitude.

When he took that fateful fishing trip, he had just returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam where he served as a “tunnel rat.”

That was a special breed of soldier who volunteered to go into the honeycombed networks of tunnels the Viet Cong had built to hide in and stage surprise ambush attacks on American troops. So, the tunnel rats were used in some of the filthiest and most dangerous circumstances imaginable.

“When we went fishing together and were gutting fish, he was the type to reach in, scoop out the eggs and say ‘ah, caviar’ and start gulping them down while my mom would be over there trying not to puke,” Butts said.

Bugging Out

In survival situations, some outdoors experts have recommended an entire smorgasbord of hideous critters to eat. Ranging from seagulls (which Wyoming has in some places) to opossums (which the Cowboy State doesn’t have).

Along with Butts, some other Wyoming outdoorsmen pondered what one could resort to if stuck out in the wild with no other options.

Some survivalists say that bugs of various types can make acceptable survival fare, but Christopher Rice of Laramie told Cowboy State Daily that he has his doubts about that.

Once during a trip overseas, he sampled cockroaches.

“It was absolutely terrible. And I ate them on top of ice cream, but it was still terrible,” said Rice, who ties fishing flies at the West Laramie Fly Store.

After that experience, he said he’d have to be truly desperate to resort to any sort of insects or grubs.

Just Say No To Prairie Dogs

The Wyoming flatlands have an abundance of what is at least rumored to be a hard-luck dish for pioneers — prairie dogs.

But Rice said he’d pass on those too.

“I think I’d probably be able to catch a rabbit as easily as a prairie dog,” he said. “And I’d want to wait until after a hard frost to eat any small furry animals anyway because of all the fleas and ticks they’ve got on them.”

Avid outdoorsman Paul Ulrich of Pinedale said he’d probably rather starve to death than dine on prairie dogs.

“The one that’s always horrified me the most is the thought of eating prairie dogs. It would be hard to choke down a prairie dog. It would be a tough one,” he told Cowboy State Daily.

Other Hideous Critters

Ulrich added that he once knew somebody who, on a whim, decided to capture, kill, cook and eat a water snake.

He said it didn’t end well.

The aroma of water snake roasting over an open fire wasn’t exactly appealing.

“I can assure you they did not enjoy cooking that snake,” Ulrich said. “And upon eating it, he told me it was rather bland.”

But the snake eventually got its revenge, he added.

“When that snake … ‘revealed itself’ a few hours later, it was not a pleasant experience,” he said.

Ulrich said he’s been hard up enough for dinner to eat some scrawny prairie cottontail rabbits, sauteed with olive oil and some pepper.

Foul Waterfowl

Coots and mergansers are two birds that can frequently be found in waterfowl hunting hot spots. While ducks and geese have a fine reputation for good dining, coots and mergansers are generally avoided.

Rice said he tried to cook a coot once, but it had absolutely no redeeming qualities and should probably be reserved only to stave off starvation.

Mergansers, which dine on fish, also have a hideous reputation. But because they sometimes closely resemble ducks in flight, hunters sometimes mistakenly shoot them.

Rice said he was raised to eat whatever he killed. And after mistakenly dropping mergansers and experimenting with different cooking methods, he discovered they don’t make a half bad addition to vegetable soup.

“It makes almost an Asian vegetable soup, because of the fish taste,” he said.

‘Like Crispy Tortilla Chips’

Rice and some others at the West Larmie Fly Store said they’d heard rumors of people resorting to eating skunks, but couldn’t verify those tales.

While he’s not keen on every trying skunk, Rice said that during his travels, he tried bat wings in soup and said they were surprisingly good.

“The bat wings were like crispy tortilla chips,” he said.

So, perhaps bat wings could be added to the Wyoming survival food menu, maybe knocking prairie dogs down a notch.

Mark Heinz can be reached at

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter