What Do Lemmings Eat?

Lemmings are herbivores, which means that they eat only plants, and no meat. Their diets consist primarily of moss and grass, but they may also eat some berries, bulbs and lichens. Since they live in the arctic tundra and alpine climates, lemmings must often dig through snow in order to reach their food sources.

Lemmings are small rodents that measure between 5 and 7 inches in length. They have long, black and brown mottled fur, short legs and small ears. Their tails are very short, similar to those of hamsters, and they weigh 4 ounces or less. These active creatures typically spend the spring in mountainous forests. When winter comes, they move below ground into a complex system of tunnels to stay safe from the cold and from predators. Lemmings are common in Scandinavia and Russia.

A popular myth is that lemmings commit suicide by jumping into water when food is scarce. While groups of lemmings have been spotted jumping into water, this is a normal part of their migratory routine, not a mass suicide ritual. Lemmings are good swimmers, and if they reach a body of water while on their migratory path, they may jump in and swim to the other side in search of a new place to live. Some lemmings may end up drowning if they are not strong enough to swim across it.