The recent story about a hunter shooting and then getting injured by a bear elicited a defense of hunting as a way to provide food for oneself or family. My question is, do people eat bear meat? I thought it was unpalatable and a source of trichinosis.
— Dale G., via email
Not only do people eat bear meat, hunters who shoot them are basically obligated to do so under Oregon laws, Dale.
Like deer or elk, bears are considered game animals, and those killed must not be wasted. That said, many of those who shoot bears are more than glad to get the meat.
"I love bear," says Mark Vargas, the Rogue District wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Vargas says he treats most of his bear meat like deer or elk, marinating and cooking steaks and roasts. Other parts of bear are relegated to stews, sausage and salami.
Local butcher shops specialize in processing these different cuts.
Medford author Tim Murphy has a new cookbook, titled "Flannel John's Critters, Fritters, Chili and Beer," due out in May that will have some bear recipes in it.
Bear can be tougher and gamier than other wild meats, so Murphy recommends a lot of tenderizing and marinating and cooking close to well done.
"You pretty much have to be a skilled cook to bring out the bear flavor," Murphy says.
If you can't wait for Murphy's book, Oregon author Tiffany Haugen has plenty of wild-game books on the market with bear recipes.
But not all bears are alike, Vargas warns. Some, particularly old boars, can quite literally be tough to swallow.
"Can you get a nasty-tasting deer? Yeah," Vargas says. "Can you get a nasty-tasting bear? Yeah."
As with all wild meats, you better be careful about trichinosis, Dale.
Trichinosis is a roundworm disease caused by parasites found in pigs as well as many wild animals, including bears.
To kill it, cook the meat to a high temperature. Also, a month or so in the freezer will take care of any parasites.
It's mostly common sense, though.
"I don't eat raw deer," Vargas says. "And I don't eat raw bear."
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