Last updated on October 10th, 2022
Did you know that truffles are one of the world’s most expensive mushrooms? This is a type of fungi that is considered to be a delicacy and is used in dishes served by Michelin-starred restaurants.
Now mushrooms are not just a favorite amongst humans but many animals. Truffles and other mushrooms are consumed with relish by many members of the animal kingdom.
On my recent visit to the zoo, I was surprised to see the bear keepers giving the animals a collection of mushrooms along with other fruits and vegetables.
Bears are occasional eaters of mushrooms and fungi and they have an excellent sense of smell which allows them to locate mushrooms. However, they will eat mushrooms only when there is a lack of other plant-based or animal-based food.
When I started talking about the bear’s diet with the bear keepers, they told me that since the creatures are omnivores, their diet can be pretty varied. You can give fruits, vegetables, animal-based food, and even mushrooms to bears.
So I decided to ask them a few questions, and they were only too happy to answer. Some of these were as follows:
Are mushrooms good for bears?
Mushrooms are full of vitamins and minerals. Research shows that mushrooms are rich in Vitamin D, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. These minerals and vitamins are rarely found in a single food source.
Therefore, when bears are bred in captivity, they are regularly given mushrooms and their usual food. As a result, bears can hunt for mushrooms and other types of fungi in the wild.
Moreover, they lead a more active life which means they can hunt and consume different types of food.
But when they are bred in captivity, their movement is restricted, and hence, their diet has to be different.
One of the reasons why mushroom is given to bears when they are bred in captivity is because:
- It can help develop a robust immune system
Yes, when bred in captivity, developing a robust immune system can be a challenge, significantly when movement is restricted. Thus, by including mushrooms in the bears’ diet, you can help the creature build a robust immune system.
Can bears have a sensitive reaction to mushrooms?
It has been rarely reported that bears have a sensitive reaction to mushrooms. But when bred in captivity, their habits and behavior might differ from the bears in the wild.
Hence, it is essential to give the creature mushrooms that are safe and healthy for consumption.
How are mushrooms included in the diet of bears?
Mushrooms are usually cut into pieces before being given to bears. This makes it easier for the bear to consume the mushroom while reducing the chances of them choking.
Where do bears find mushrooms?
When it comes to the bears living in the wild, they quickly find fungi and other mushrooms in the forest.
Bears have an excellent sense of smell, and they can easily find the location of mushrooms and fungi.
These creatures can even find it hard to identify mushrooms like truffles and consume these. Bears can differentiate between toxic and edible mushrooms.
You will find that the creatures are quick to avoid dangerous psychedelic mushrooms and poisonous ones like toadstools. You will also find that bears look for mushrooms during summer and after winter.
Mushrooms and other edible fungi grow in the forest, mostly during summer and rainy days. Bears hibernating during winter often hunt for mushrooms to make up for the lost nutrition.
Mushrooms are rich in vitamins and minerals, and the creature can make up for the loss by consuming these in summer.
Another reason why bears look for mushrooms is that they are readily available after winter. Bears can dig up the mushrooms and consume this whole.
Some of the questions that came across my mind about bears consuming mushrooms in the wild are as follows:
Do young bears consume mushrooms?
Yes, their mothers taught young bear cubs how to dig up mushrooms. Their mothers also teach them how to differentiate between edible and inedible mushrooms. Therefore, young bear cubs can consume mushrooms.
Are black bears known to consume mushrooms?
Black bears consume several types of fungi; one of them is mushrooms. Black bears do not hibernate, but you will find them hunting for mushrooms, especially during fall when other food sources become scarce.
During summer, bears love to dig around the roots of trees for tuber and mushrooms. Their eating habits change slightly during summer which is why they will supplement their diet with mushrooms.
As mushrooms are rich in minerals, it helps the weaker ones develop a more robust immune system. Hence, even in the wild, bears are drawn to mushrooms.
What other mushrooms do bears eat?
Bears naturally avoid poisonous mushrooms. They can often consume mushrooms that we would find toxic and not suffer any harmful effects.
Bears enjoy eating exotic mushrooms like truffles and even regular mushrooms like button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and hedgehog mushrooms.
Bears can distinguish between the different types of mushrooms, and you will see the creatures consuming the edible mushrooms whole.
When bred in captivity, the mushrooms are chopped up and given to the bears in zoos. But the stalks are not discarded.
Instead, you will find that the bear keepers offer the bears the stalk and the head of the mushrooms.
Some of the factors about the mushrooms that bears consume that the bear keepers told me are as follows:
Can bears consume dangerous mushrooms?
Bears are known to avoid consuming toxic mushrooms. But certain species of bears can consume and digest even mushrooms like Copelandia, Gymnopilus, and Psilocybe. However, these creatures are usually unaffected by the toxic effects of these mushrooms.
Can bears be considered good mushroom hunters?
Yes, bears are excellent mushroom hunters. It is primarily so because they can quickly identify the location of the mushrooms and dig these out.
They will then eat these mushrooms whole. Bears consume different types of mushrooms, as long as these fall in the category of edible mushrooms.
Interested in learning more about what animals eat mushrooms? Check out that article for more information.