Squirrels eat mushrooms?
I had an unexpected natural history moment a few weeks ago when the first group of Mountain School students arrived. They were restlessly waiting in the amphitheater to head out for their first hike when one student yelled, “There’s a squirrel in the tree with a cookie!” I looked over curiously thinking, a cookie? The squirrel did have something in its mouth, but a cookie? I had no time to investigate but made a mental note to check out the willow tree the squirrel was scampering around in later.
That evening I stopped at the willow and found a large piece of a mushroom on a branch. I was now interested, was the squirrel drying the mushroom to harvest later? Do squirrels cache mushrooms? It was almost like learning that Pika gather grasses and store them for the winter. I wasn’t convinced, this was only one mushroom, maybe the squirrel was startled by the noisy 5th graders and decided to abandon his lunch for a more peaceful setting?
A few days later I was headed to the beach when I found another mushroom in a tree! It was nestled in the branches of a Lodgepole pine. And ~6” from the mushroom was a small scat pile.
Evidence! Squirrel scat and mushrooms
This discovery prompted a bit of research. I looked to my favorite guide book, Daniel Mathews’ Cascade-Olympic Natural History guide. My suspicion was confirmed. Douglas Squirrels do dry mushrooms and later cache them for winter!
(Top Photo) Red Squirrel eating a mushroom taken at Yellowstone National Park, courtesy of the National Park Service
Watching the squirrels gather and dry the mushrooms was one of my favorite things to do while sitting on the porch of up at graduate housing.
My wife and I was supprised to see a squirrel picking apart a white mushroom growing out of a pile of decaying oak leaves in our yard and having a meal.
Eustis FL 32726
August 22,2009 Northern Lower Penninsula, Michigan:
Autumn mushrooms are popping out. As I walked the Preserve we donated to our favorite Conservancy, I noticed a mushroom (severed at ground level) tucked on a small limb against the trunk of a balsam tree. Never seen such a thing in Nature before. 20 minutes later I had seen 16 more similar depositions — a few on stumps and almost always at chest height. I am guessing that they have been deposited by red squirrels. I am 62 and have been walking the same property all my life without seeing this phenomenom. Reminds me that sometimes you just have to be there at the right time.
Thanks for the site — glad to post.
This reminds me of the discoveries I made of red squirrels and the action of “squirreling away” mushrooms in my house! I lived in a house on remote Brooks Lake of Katmai National Monument back in ’81 that had the windows broken out of all the frames in one room, long neglected from it’s former glory in salmon research days. Over the summer, a wet one that morphed into fall, I began to see white spruce layered with mushrooms like russulas and “orange delicious” lactarius. It looked like Christmas tree decorations along with fallen birch leaves in glowing golds. It was easy to watch the squirrels at work.
What I didn’t notice was that after drying the mushrooms outside they were hopping into the empty room where our packing boxes were stored and filling the boxes with dried mushrooms. In late September when it was time to pack up at the end of the season one box was full of mushrooms as well as muffins, cookies, and even half a chocolate my sister had sent me back in July. I had suspected my roommate of eating my cached treasures, but it was a squirrel with the same idea as me, saving up for a long winter. I felt bad for being suspicious of my roommate all those weeks!
Just today I watched one eat not one but two in my backyard and they was fresh not dried
Camping in northern Alberta, Canada we noticed a number of squirrels carrying fairly large white mushrooms across our site and up into the trees(one appeared to be eating a fresh one). One poor squirrel was missing ALL the fur on his tail, it was like a mouse tail, only black.
I’ve seen chuncks of Amanita muscaria on tree branches. A red squirrel.
There was a reason I did a search & found this site. In one bird garden I have a large piece of drift wood which leans against a tree. Last year I had picked out a dried mushroom – I wasn’t really sure why it was there. This summer I found the same thing – but more of them. I reasoned that it had to be one of the small squirrels (our woods & yard are full of them). I thought it pretty cool that they had figured out their own drying process. This morning I noticed something else. I had hung several wicker bird houses in another bird garden. There was a dried mushroom stuffed into the opening of one of the houses. 2 more had dried mushrooms inside. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before.