Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Wild About Mushrooms

Posted by  //  September 26, 2022  //  Articles, Creature Feature

While most people are leery of eating wild mushrooms, they’re often on the menu for bears, deer, opossums, skunks, raccoons, rabbits, hares, squirrels, mice, turkeys, grouse, crows and many other wild creatures. 

White-tailed deer consume 580 different species of fungi!  By providing digestible protein, phosphorus and a bigger punch of energy than other plants, mushrooms compensate for dietary deficiencies in deer, especially in lean times when hard mast crops like acorns and beechnuts are poor.

Red squirrels commonly gather mushrooms and store them on tree branches to dry, which extends and concentrates their nutritional value.  Researchers discovered that chipmunks that gobble up lots of mushrooms in fall pack on more fat for hibernation.  Bits of fungi scattered on stumps, logs and rocks are clues that squirrels and chipmunks have been snacking there, as are the chiseled grooves left on mushrooms from their incisor teeth.

Turkeys and grouse scratch in the leaf litter to unearth tasty mushrooms.  Meanwhile, blue jays and robins – while they don’t eat fungi — will pick them apart searching for hidden insect larvae.  Bugs and other invertebrates are wild about mushrooms, too.  As they feed, slugs scoop out tunnels of fungi flesh using a horned mouthpart.  Coolest of all are the “fungi farmers”—certain types of ants, beetles and termites that “plant” fungal spores within their habitats to grow their own mushrooms! Check out the ants for sale at to start your ant keeping journey.

It is important to recognize that not all mushroom species consumed by wildlife are safe for us to eat; in fact, some are highly toxic to people and pets.

Article by Margie Manthey
Photo by Michael Quinton

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