Wild Tracks

What Are Carnivores?


Many wild animals animals such as alligators, snakes and birds of prey eat meat as part of their diet. Frogs and even some plants eat meat in the form of insects. These life forms are carnivorous ( flesh-eating or predatory) but are not technically carnivores.

So What Are Carnivores?

True carnivores, of the Order Carnivora, are all mammals with fur. They give birth to live young, and nurse them on milk from the mother. Their digestive systems are designed for processing meat, not plant matter, and they have sharp teeth and claws to capture their food. Their energy and nutrient requirements are obtained from eating meat.

Carnivores generally have eyes that face forward, providing binocular vision and depth perception to hunt down prey. In contrast, the grass eaters they prey on have eyes set on the sides of their head, giving them a 360 degree field of vision to watch for predators as they graze.

Some carnivores, such as the raccoons and bears, eat a great deal of plant matter – berries, fruit, roots – but are still classed as Carnivores.

The Order Carnivora contains over 260 species which range in size from the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) who weighs as little as 25 grams (0.88 oz), to the 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus). They are found on every continent except Antarctica.

See our Complete List of Carnivores