When we imagine squirrels preparing their winter food cache visions of acorns and pinecones come to mind. But some years the harvest is slim and alternative food sources have to be found. Who knew that squirrels were so adept at mushrooming and preserving their fungus finds?
Michael Quinton documents an Alaskan Red Squirrel who did exactly this. In a lean year (the spruce cones were few) this clever creature sniffed out potential mushrooms and gave each a taste. If the fungus was flavorful he chewed down the stem, cut the plant into smaller pieces and laid the bits out to dry into jerky which stores easier and does not mold. The squirrel was even able to harvest poisonous Amanita muscaria to which the animals have a tolerance thanks to their particular gut proteins.
We hope you enjoy this gallery of this busy and hard-working squirrel. The last image shows our resourceful friend dining on a dried mushroom as the snow falls!