Go wild: learn about what animals eat

Explore what’s on the menu for some of BC’s land animals, and then try some fun recipes inspired by what animals eat!

You’ve heard the phrase “balanced diet” before, but what are you actually balancing when you balance a diet? All animals—whether they go on four feet or two—need a balance of fats, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and water in their diets. Humans have extremely varied diets—we’re able to eat lots of different kinds of plants and animals to get the nutrients we need. But what about other animals—do they need balanced diets too? You bet they do—and you’ve probably even got some favourite foods in common with wild animals.  

We associate hummingbirds with drinking nectar from flowers, but it turns out their diets include much more than that! Hummingbirds also eat small insects like gnats, and we suspect they eat pollen too. They’ve also been observed eating fruit juice, tree sap (especially the sap of maple trees), sand, ashes and seawater—scientists think these last three might be important sources of minerals like calcium. To cook a dish fit for a hummingbird, try these recipes featuring boiled maple sap (aka maple syrup) or sip like a hummingbird with this watermelon drink. Hummingbirds use their tongues like straws to draw up nectar—let your kid see if they can do the same! 

Since we often only see raccoons around garbage cans in the city, their nickname “trash panda” can feel accurate—but wild raccoons actually prefer a varied diet. They love food fresh caught from the water, fruits, seeds, vegetables, eggs, nuts and even the occasional slug. The city raccoons you see scavenging for garbage don’t have a balanced diet, and don’t live as long. Make a snack fit for a wild raccoon with some hard-boiled eggs or trail mix, plus these fun salads—or prep yourself some delicious fresh-caught fish for supper

Some folks think of skunks as a stinky pest since they’re notorious for raiding beehives and henhouses, but 70% of what skunks eat actually benefits gardeners and farmers—they prey on wasps, mice, grasshoppers, larvae and other agricultural/garden pests. In addition, they eat voles, nestling birds, eggs, fruits and berries, reptiles and some green plants. Celebrate them with these fruit kababs, or this summery egg salad

White-tailed deer eat a variety of woody plants, grasses and herbs, but their diets also include delicacies like fiddleheads, mushrooms, and blueberries. If you live in an area with deer, chances are good that you’ve also seen first-hand how tasty they find your garden plants! Because deer have four stomachs, like cows, they can digest a lot of plant material that humans can’t. But kids can munch like a deer on blueberries, or try this simple trick for cooking edible mushrooms in a frying pan.

While bears are omnivores—they eat meat and plants—vegetation actually makes up about 80% of their diet! The rest of their diet comes from sources like small rodents, fish, insects, carrion (dead animals) and occasionally young deer, elk or moose. Make like a bear and enjoy some berries this summer with our guide to berry picking

Finally, we have to mention the hoary marmot. These mountain-dwelling little guys communicate by whistling loudly—in fact, they’re what gave Whistler its name. They live on wild grains, and while you can’t eat exactly the same way they do, humans can eat plenty of food sources rich in grains, starting with oatmeal, toast or cereal! Don’t forget to give a little whistle of appreciation.  

If your kids are interested in cooking for their favourite animals, try our roundup of recipes for furry friends. Or, let your kids eat like bunnies with an indoor micro-garden—here’s everything you need to know to help kids grow their own tasty indoor greens. And for more recipes and ideas, join our community on Facebook and Instagram

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