Brown and black bears are often portrayed as meat eaters, but most of their diet is actually plant-based. They like dandelions, berries and grasses, says wildlife biologist Danielle Rivet. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Everybody knows that bunnies eat carrots, right? Except they don’t, really.

In the wild, rabbits aren’t in the habit of digging up root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and beets. They much prefer wild greens, such as grasses and clover.

In fact, carrots may actually be bad for rabbits, because although the vegetables are high in good nutrients, including beta carotene, they are also relatively high in sugar. This means that feeding a rabbit lots of carrots could lead to tooth decay or other health issues.

But this is just one common myth about the diets of wild animals. Here’s another: Bears are bloodthirsty predators that regularly stalk and kill prey.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

“While we do see bears feeding on elk and bison and things like that, most of those animals actually just didn’t survive the winter, or they were wolf kills,” said Danielle Rivet, a wildlife biologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

Rivet says black bears and brown bears in the United States and Canada have diets that are made up of about 80 percent plants. This can include dandelions and grasses, as well as blueberries, strawberries and huckleberries, depending on what’s in season.


A wild rabbit nibbles on grass, a staple in bunny diets. (Tempau/Getty Images)

Grizzlies, which are a type of brown bear, also like to spend their days turning over rocks in search of army cutworm moths. In other areas, such as Yellowstone National Park, the bears may sniff around for a red squirrel’s secret stash of pine nuts.

“So the bears aren’t actually just going around and murdering things all the time,” said Rivet. “They’ll eat anything. Mosses, fungus, they’ll eat mushrooms. Bears aren’t picky.”

Many people know that the bears of Alaska get a lot of calories each year from salmon. But did you know bruins also enjoy other types of seafood?

“These bears will actually go out into the tidal plains when the tide is out, and they’ll dig up clams,” said Rivet. “Loads of clams. Loads of moths. They have to eat tons and tons of these things to actually gain enough weight to get ready for winter.”

Aside from bears and rabbits, plenty of other animals eat things we don’t typically associate with their kind.

Squirrels, which, of course, love acorns and nuts, also create a sort of mushroom jerky by hanging fungi on tree branches so it can dry out. Pandas, which are infamous bamboo eaters, will nibble on rotting carcasses if they get the chance. Deer have been known to gobble up baby birds from time to time. And only half of all mosquitoes drink blood. (It’s the females — they need the protein so they can produce eggs.)

Scientists have even discovered that the bonnethead shark, a type of hammerhead, gets some of its nutrients from eating sea grass.

Which makes you wonder: What other “fun facts” about animals have we gotten wrong all these years?