The gray squirrel is one of the most common animals found in backyards across Georgia. Indeed, it has proven to be able to coexist with humans.
One reason they flourish in our backyards is linked to the fact they are omnivores. In other words, they can eat both animals and plants. In fact, studies have shown they can consume upwards of 60 species of plants alone. We all know they will eat anything from tomatoes to various nuts, berries, buds and the like. In addition, they will also eat mushrooms.
Recently while walking about my backyard on an unseasonably balmy winter afternoon, I happened across evidence that a gray squirrel had recently been dining of a mushroom. The mushroom had been knocked over and pieces of the fragile plant were strewn about. When I looked closely at the pieces, I could actually see tooth marks left by the hungry squirrel. Then next day I found, since the last time I visited the feeding site, a squirrel had eaten even more of the mushroom. Prudent homeowners would never try to eat a mushroom without being sure the mushroom was not poisonous. Even then, you cannot be sure what you are eating. I have a friend that fancied himself as being a mushroom expert. One on fateful occasion, his misidentification of a mushroom landed him and his family in the hospital.
Eating a poison mushroom is not a concern for the gray squirrel. Remarkably, they seem to be able to eat any mushroom without risking becoming sick or killed. In fact, researchers have found gray squirrels have the ability to eat mushrooms containing deadly amanita (deathcap) toxins with impunity. The gray squirrel is one of only a handful of animals capable of this gastronomic fete.
Who would have ever thought that the animal that eats our vegetables, destroys our bird nesting boxes, eats more than its fair share of seeds at our feeders, and even invades our attics is a uniquely special animal? I know I didn’t.
WOW! These furry creatures are everywhere here in Columbus GA. Hey! If they can eat wiper blades, wiring on cars, and bumpers why not mushrooms. I have never heard of a squirrel being found dead from eating cars.
I fully agree, there doesn’t seem much a squirrel will not eat.
This morning I couldn’t believe what I saw, I grabbed my binoculars the squirrel had climbed up on a squirrel perch I put on a oak tree in my front yard and was munching on a big mushroom, I’d never seen that before, evidently it’s pretty common with grays. I gotta kick out of that. It had white gills I was told white gills are poisonous but I understand it’s no problem for these guys. Tim. Mississippi
Thank you for your comment. I am still trying to photograph a squirrel eating mushrooms.
We have greys in the tree just outside our window in London. A few years ago, I saw one take a huge bite out of a large mushroom and it went crazy – backflipping, running around in circles and then started fighting with the mushroom. There must have been a dose of psilocybin in those mushrooms (not a species I recognised as magic, though).
I love your response!
Watching one right now on my water oak, after picking up a huge cap and pearching him/her self on oak in North Central Florida. I guess??? Everything in moderation. LMAO
Thanks for your comments. It is indeed amazing what they can eat. One thing we know for sure is they are one of the most interesting animals living in our backyards.
Randy Cofer: wow I did not know this. When I saw a grey squirrel eating a yellow cap mushroom I thought he was doomed. Thank goodness it is not so.
I just recently started taking photos of mushrooms and actually saw a squirrel eating one today! I did notice that something was eating them. When I saw the squirrel eating it I was worried thinking that the squirrel might die and thinking I should go destroy the mushrooms even though I really like looking at the mushrooms, I was so worried about the squirrels. I feel much better now that I read your article I won’t worry about the squirrels eating them now.
I am glad the blog alleviated your concern. I too am amazed that squirrels have the ability to eat poisonous mushrooms.