TRENTON — Squirrel has never really caught on as a popular diet staple, and now New Jersey officials are adding another, quite serious reason to shy away from eating the woodland creatures: lead contamination.
New Jersey officials are warning hunters and residents near a toxic waste dump in the Ringwood area about consuming the animals, two months after a lead-contaminated squirrel was found in the area.
It is the first time the state has ever issued an advisory regarding squirrel consumption, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Senior Services, Tom Slater, said.
A letter sent Tuesday to Ringwood residents advised them that children should not eat squirrel more than once a month, pregnant women should limit their intake to twice a month, and adults should not eat squirrel more than twice a week.
Lead, which is harmful even in small amounts, can damage the nervous system, red blood cell production and the kidneys.
Ringwood is home to the Ramapough Mountain Indian Tribe, many of whom have hunted, fished and grown their own food in the area for years.