Is a Red Panda a Herbivore or an Omnivore?

By Susan Leisure

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The name "red panda" brings up images of the familiar black and white giant panda. But the red panda looks more like a fox or a raccoon. Trying to determine whether this adorable mammal is an herbivore or an omnivore can be as puzzling as determining its relatives.

About the Red Panda

Red pandas have a deceptive name. They aren't closely related to the widely recognized black and white giant panda. Instead, red pandas are more like raccoons and skunks than like bears. Red pandas are native to China, the Himalayas and Myanmar. They can weigh anywhere from six to 14 pounds when full-grown, and they live an average of eight to 10 years.

Scientific Classification

Red pandas are part of the Carnivora order of mammals, which includes 250 species in eight families. Members of Carnivora descended from ancestors that had a primarily meat-based diet. The red panda has many characteristics of a carnivore, including teeth designed for tearing and shredding meat, an acute sense of smell, and a tendency to be nocturnal, when hunting is easier.

Diet in Reality

In reality, the red panda eats mostly bamboo, along with berries and other fruit, acorns and flowers. It also eats eggs, insects, small birds and even small rodents. Because bamboo is such a staple part of the red panda's diet, he might spend up to half the day searching for it and eating it.

Herbivore or Omnivore

Most experts classify the red panda as primarily an herbivore. Because their staple is bamboo and they also eat berries and other plants, red pandas are generally included with herbivores. However, because they also eat insects, eggs and even small animals on occasion, they are not exclusively herbivores. Red pandas could be logically considered omnivores.

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