Known for their bandit-masked faces, raccoons are a familiar sight just about everywhere. While their natural habitat is the moist woodland – raccoons require ready access to water – these adorable mammals live easily near humans and can be found in farmlands and urban and suburban areas. Diet-wise, raccoons are some of the least pretentious omnivores. This might leave you wondering if raccoons eat mushrooms. Do they?
Do Raccoons Eat Mushrooms?
Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores and eat pretty much anything. Their diet includes numerous plants, and raccoons most likely eat mushrooms. While no scientific studies confirm the presence of mushrooms in the raccoon’s diet, these animals are known to feed on anything that’s available. Their undemanding nature and anecdotal evidence suggest that raccoons eat both cultivated and wild mushrooms.
Why Do Raccoons Eat Mushrooms?
Raccoons most likely eat mushrooms because they are readily available. As omnivores, raccoons are not fussy eaters. This opportunistic mammal eats anything from small mammals and birds to crayfish, lizards, eggs, insects, berries, fruits, nuts, plants, and mushrooms. Even though they eat anything, their diet is determined heavily by the environment.
Raccoons living in the woodlands are reliant on
Raccoons living near farmlands are also less likely to eat mushrooms than raccoons living in wild habitats. Here, they will likely snack on corn, persimmons, apples, and even nuts or acorns.
Studies on raccoons living in wild habitats also show that mushroom consumption is incidental and seldom.
Insects top the list of raccoons’
Types of Mushrooms Raccoons Eat
Although there are no specific studies on the types of mushrooms raccoons eat, these opportunistic animals share the habitat with other mushroom eaters, including deer, squirrels, other rodents, and birds. All these animals eat a variety of fleshy mushrooms and fungi, including:
- Amanita mushrooms: While toxic to humans, amanita mushrooms are an important source of nutrients for wildlife. They have a high concentration of proteins and carbohydrates and are also rich in amino acids. Amanitas also are an important source of water, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Russula mushrooms: This species contains hundreds of mushroom varieties that grow pretty much in all habitats. They have a rich mineral and vitamin composition and contain up to 90% water. Some russula species are edible, while others are mildly toxic to humans.
- Lactarius mushrooms: Some of the largest and flashiest mushrooms, lactarius, attract all kinds of wildlife. They are rich in dietary fiber, carbohydrates, protein, and amino acids. Not only do raccoons and other animals like these mushrooms, but many varieties are also edible to humans.
- Chanterelle mushrooms: Characterized by their bright yellow color, chanterelle is some of the best edible mushrooms. Not only are they prized mushrooms among chefs, but chanterelles are also appreciated by most animals, including the raccoons.
- Bolete mushrooms: Generally considered safe to eat, most mushrooms in the bolete family are appreciated by wildlife. Like other mushrooms, they are rich in proteins and carbs but contain less water compared to russula mushrooms.
- Morel mushrooms: Another type of highly prized mushrooms the raccoons snack on is the morel. These mushrooms carry the highest amount of vitamin D among all edible species and also have high mineral content, including zinc, copper, iron, and manganese. Raccoons can also get important electrolytes from these mushrooms, such as sodium and potassium.
How Do Raccoons Avoid Poisonous Mushrooms?
It is not yet entirely known how raccoons – and other animals, as a matter of fact – avoid poisonous mushrooms and plants, but they most likely can smell or taste the toxic mushrooms and avoid or limit their consumption.
For a long time, it has been believed that small mammals and other wild animals that eat poisonous mushrooms are immune to their toxins.
However, studies revealed that wildlife could only eat a certain amount of toxic mushrooms and fungi before suffering adverse reactions. Some herbivores have even died after eating too many poisonous mushrooms.
This leads to other theories being more plausible. One theory suggests that mammals can detect the poison in mushrooms (and other plants) by smell or taste.
Some theories even suggest that animals can recognize poisonous mushrooms by their color. However, even if most herbivores can distinguish colored from green vegetation due to differences in their hue, saturation, and contrast, the truth is that most herbivores are color blind.
Omnivores may or may not see colors. For instance, studies have shown that bears see colors – thus, they could use their sight to note color differences in mushrooms. However, raccoons are nocturnal animals and are believed to be color blind.
For this reason, not all animals would be able to distinguish poisonous from edible mushrooms by their color alone.
Another hypothesis is that poisonous mushrooms are as toxic for animals as they are for humans. Animals can’t actually detect which mushrooms are poisonous, but if poisoning occurs, they have enough time to seclude themselves before the symptoms become evident.
Because it can take up to several hours for mushroom poisoning symptoms to show, this theory is one of the most plausible.
When Do Raccoons Eat Mushrooms?
As explained above, raccoons only eat mushrooms sporadically. Like all other mushroom eaters in the wild, raccoons snack on fungi and ‘shrooms when they are available.
While there are some exceptions, most mushrooms grow in cool and moist environments. Their preferred temperature range is between 55°F and 60°F, and relative air humidity between 90% and 95%. This is why most mushrooms grow in fall, generally after rain.
Raccoons live in woodlands, generally near bodies of water. In these habitats, the tree canopy prevents the soil from getting too warm, and the air humidity is generally high. Thus, mushrooms are likely to occur throughout the year.
In farmlands or urban and suburban habitats, raccoons eat mushrooms if they find scraps or leftovers in garbage cans.
Raccoons living near inhabited areas are even more opportunistic than those living in woodlands and often take advantage of kitchen waste or gardens and orchards. Instead of mushrooms, raccoons in these habitats are more likely to eat fruits, such as apples and persimmons, nuts, tomatoes, other vegetables, wheat, and corn.
Regardless of the habitat they live in, insects are the main component of the raccoon diet.
Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores that eat anything they find available. They are not fussy eaters and will likely snack on mushrooms if they lack more desirable