Omnivores are animals that feed on both plant and animal matter. Omnivores have adapted to derive nutrients and energy from plant and animal food sources. They can digest proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber. Some omnivorous mammals can incorporate fungi, algae, and bacteria into their diet.
American Black Bear
The black bear is smaller than the other common North American bear species. They are adaptable mammals that will eat whatever is plentiful. For this reason, they eat both vegetation and meat.
Black bears may consume up to 85% of vegetation as part of their diet, mainly if available. They browse various plants, such as grasses, roots, buds, nuts, seeds, berries, and other fruits throughout the year.
The black bear loses a significant portion of its fat and weight. Once the winter season is over, the black bear will try to regain all the lost weight. To do this, they will change their diet.
They prefer protein-rich foods from meat sources. These will include young moose, deer, and elk. Black bears will also feed on carrion. This beer derives some protein from incorporating insects into its diet too.
Gray foxes are capable of eating both plant and animal matter. Gray foxes consume a considerable amount of plant matter.
During the summer, a gray fox’s diet comprises more plant material and fruits than in the winter.
The gray fox has a preference for fruit. They roam around looking for fruits that are ripe and readily available.
The favorite plants in their diet consist of apples, grapes, and persimmon.
The gray fox mainly favors meat, making up a substantial part of its diet. In the winter, they eat more meat than in the summer. The gray fox preys on voles, rabbits, mice, shrews, and birds.
Squirrels are opportunistic feeders and not shy to feed on almost everything they can find. A squirrel’s diet mainly consists of nuts, seeds, and fruit.
If their usual food sources are limited, they feed on small birds, insects, bird eggs, and small rodents.
The feeding habits of a squirrel depend on the availability of food. Squirrels are primarily herbivorous but have become quite adaptable to different situations and habitats over time.
Preferred foods for squirrels are nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, roots, bulbs, bark, and fungi. Squirrels spend their time foraging about searching for food.
During different seasons, the conditions change, and food can become scarce. In this case, squirrels are forced to eat whatever they can find. Due to this, squirrels are classed as omnivores as they will change their diet.
When hunger strikes, these little creatures will eat whatever they can find. Their diet can include flowers, insects, tree bark, leaves, grass, and bird seed. Squirrels will also prey on baby birds and eat eggs if they happen to find them.
Since they have such a diverse palate, squirrels in urban areas may invade people’s homes and eat pet food. If you leave pet food outside, squirrels will eat it. Squirrels are also known to go through garbage bins, eating whatever they can find.
I recently saw squirrels chasing each other, and I wanted to find out why. If you want to know, I have written an article you can find here.
Chipmunks are speedy creatures that come from the same family as squirrels. Like squirrels, they also have an omnivorous diet.
A significant part of their diet is vegetation, including seeds, nuts, berries, mushrooms, buds, and other fruits. Aside from these, chipmunks also feed on bird’s eggs, baby birds, insects, tiny frogs, and worms.
Chipmunks have a digestive system similar to a squirrel. These small mammals are unable to digest cellulose. As they cannot digest cellulose, they rely on an omnivorous diet.
Chipmunks forage all day, searching for nuts, leaves, seeds, and fruits on the ground. However, once in a while, chipmunks will climb up trees to look for more food. If a chipmunk happens to find newly hatched birds, it will eat them, especially when food is scarce.
The North American raccoon can easily be identified by its hairless front legs that resemble slim human hands.
The raccoon is classified in the order Carnivora. However, their diet is omnivorous, as they eat vegetation and meat.
The vegetation that raccoons eat is varied. A raccoon’s diet includes citrus fruits, berries, acorns, apples, beechnuts, figs, walnuts, corn, and wild grapes.
Raccoons also eat meat, consisting mainly of invertebrates with a smaller amount of vertebrates.
Raccoons like to search for food in water sources. This is often mistaken with them washing their food before eating it. Raccoons manipulate their prey as they feed, and a frog in the water makes a tasty meal.
Favorite raccoons treat comprises fish, crayfish, insects, bird’s eggs, worms, and mollusks.
Raccoons also live in urban areas. Here they will scavenge around people’s homes and garbage. Urban raccoons are more than willing to eat whatever they can find, and pet food in the garden will be eaten.
Grizzly bears are classified in the carnivore order. However, they eat various food items from plants and animals.
Grizzly bears are well adapted to survive every season. They hibernate through the winter months. They emerge from their dens at the beginning of spring, but the food supply is usually minimal at this time. Most vegetation is still without leaves, and only a few kinds of grass are available in the lower elevations.
Grizzly bears will consume almost everything they come across, including nuts, berries, leaves, fungi, and roots. Their diet also includes fish, especially spawning salmon in northern regions of the continent.
Grizzly bears forage on the sunny slopes looking for dead animals to scavenge. If lucky, find moose, elk, or deer that didn’t make it through the winter.
As more plants sprout in spring, the grizzly bears spend more time feeding on roots, lily bulbs, and other starchy vegetation.
They have powerful long claws to dig out deep roots and tubers. Bears will also eat salmon carcasses from the fish that died after spawning.
In the summer, the bears are most likely found near wet meadows, along rivers, marsh edges, and wetland areas. They favor these areas because of the abundance of plants and grasses.
Grizzly bears also like fruits such as blueberries and huckleberries, which they consume in large quantities.
Fall is a critical period for grizzly bears as they strive to pack plenty of fat. They also use this time to stock up on energy to take them through the winter season.
The amount of food gradually dwindles, succumbing to frost. Bears that live on the coast tend to feed on the spawning salmon that provides them with much-needed proteins and fats.
Grizzly bears are not avid hunters but can take down moose, bighorn sheep, elk, and deer. They will not risk injury by avoiding healthy adults. They will instead prefer to prey on small calves or injured animals.
Grizzly bears wander through various habitats looking for carrion left by other animals.
Red foxes have a diet that consists of rodents, insects, eggs, birds, fruits, and various small mammals. Although classified in Carnivora’s order, the red fox is willing to consume almost anything it can find.
Red foxes are avid hunters and tend to pounce on their prey. The red fox likes small rodents such as voles, rabbits, and field mice. Their hunt does not limit their diet because they feed on earthworms, grasshoppers, amphibians, fish, small reptiles, and mollusks. Red foxes will eat carrion from other animals and hunt young deer.
The red fox feeds on less plant matter compared to the gray fox. The red fox is known to eat fruits, roots, and some species of grasses.
Their preferred fruits and seeds include grapes, plums, acorns, apples, blueberries, raspberries, and mulberries. Red foxes will sometimes graze on tubers like potatoes and some flowering plants.
The opossum is a mammal that has the most diverse diet. They are omnivores surviving on vegetation and meat as their primary food source.
The staples of an opossum’s diet mainly consist of smaller rodents, insects, worms, snails, frogs, and birds.
Opossums consume vegetables, fruits, berries, and nuts. They will also eat a variety of grasses for nutrients.
Opossums in urban areas are not shy of perusing garbage cans. Anything they find that is edible, they will consume.
The American badger, out of all the species of badger, is the most carnivorous. They eat small mammals such as ground squirrels, gophers, and chipmunks.
They are adapted for fossorial activity, digging their prey out of the ground. They have several adaptations for this type of activity, including small ears, sharp claws, and a long snout.
Badgers will cache the food they catch for later. A video surfaced in March 2017 of a badger burying a calf carcass. The University of Utah biologists were trying to capture footage of vultures and other avian scavengers but captured some fantastic footage of the incident. This is the first known instance of a badger burying an animal larger than itself.
There is an excellent article by the University of Utah, which you can find here.
Here is the amazing footage of a badger burying an entire cow.
The badger spent five days burying the 50-pound carcass. The badger then went back to the carcass over the next two months.
Badgers eat earthworms, insect larvae, fruit, vegetables, and plant bulbs. Favorite fruit includes apples, pears, plums, and elderberries.
Badgers also have seeds, acorns, nuts, sweetcorn, and wheat from farmers’ fields.
Badgers are a nuisance to farmers and gardeners as they can do much damage.
We all know that skunks can smell bad, but this is not to do with their diet. Skunks are omnivores, eating various fruits, plants, and meat. They will eat a variety of food to get enough varied nutrients.
Skunks eat fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, berries, and melons.
Skunks eat larvae, earthworms, frogs, snaked birds, moles, lizards, grubs, rodents, and bird eggs.
Skunks in urban areas will seek out garbage left by humans and can be a nuisance in gardens. Pet food left out for pet cats and dogs can be a tasty snack for a wild skunk.
Skunks can also be found scavenging on carrion and roadkill.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.