Last Reviewed and Updated on July 22, 2022
Lemmings, little animals living in the tundras and other harsh environments, are one of the most interesting rodents. These animals also have some of the most unusual myths circling around. Read on and learn some fun facts about lemmings and why you should never mess with one.
1. Lemmings have a special claw that helps them dig in the snow
Lemmings have a flattened claws on their front feet. This sharp shovel-like claw helps them dig in the snow.
Think this is weird? Be sure to also give our list of 100 weirdest facts about animals a read.
2. They mostly eat mosses and grasses
During the warmer months of the year, lemmings eat fresh, tender grass and other grass-like vegetation. When the temperatures drop and the land is covered in snow, these animals will eat frozen (but still green) grass and moss.
They will also eat berries, bulbs, lichen, roots, and bulbs…
3. Their incisor teeth grow continuously
These teeth grow throughout their life. They get worn down and regrow continuously, which allows lemmings to eat tougher vegetation.
4. They don’t hibernate
They don’t hibernate during cold seasons; lemmings are active all year long. During warmer parts of the year, they find their food on the open grounds, and in winter months, even in the harshest winters, they burrow through the snow to find food.
5. In winter, they live in large tunnel systems beneath the snow
They are adapted for digging in the snow. In the winter months, they will dig elaborate tunnel systems below the snow, protecting themselves from predators, and it is where they search for food.
They move to higher grounds in spring and will live in forests or shrubby mountain areas.
6. They have toilets in their burrows
Their burrows aren’t just a random system of tunnels. When they build their burrows, these burrows have dedicated areas. Lemmings build rest areas, nesting rooms, and separate toilet areas.
7. The numbers of their populations have extreme fluctuations
This is one of the most interesting facts about lemmings. Their numbers go from carrying capacity (the maximum number of animals that can be sustained by the environment) to near extinction numbers periodically. This happens roughly every four years, and the reason for these wild fluctuations is unknown.
8. They are pretty aggressive towards their predators
Rodents usually try to escape when faced by a predator and don’t really fight back. Lemmings are known for their aggressive behavior towards predators; they will fight back. Lemmings will lunge and bite their predators as well as try to scare them away with their loud shrieks. Don’t mess with lemmings; size doesn’t matter to them.
9. People believed lemmings commit mass suicides
This was and still is a popular myth about lemmings, but not the weirdest one. People once believed lemmings consciously committed mass suicides by jumping off cliffs.
While this is a myth, it is based on their migratory behavior. In search of new territories, when populations are too big, lemmings may jump off cliffs (usually in water) in large numbers, following the groups. But they don’t leap into their deaths, some may get injured or drown, but it’s not an attempt at mass suicide, just at overcoming an obstacle on their path.
10. People also believed that lemmings explode
What has to be one of the weirdest and most fun facts about lemmings is that people believed, and some still do, that lemmings explode when they are angry. It is unknown how this myth came to be, but it’s nothing more than a myth. Lemmings don’t explode.