What Animal Eats Cholla Cactus?

The cholla cactus has many edible and nutritious parts that animals like to consume. There are many animals that eat cholla cactus, including jackrabbits, peccaries, deer, squirrels, birds, iguanas, tortoises, and more.

Next to the prickly pear cactus, the cholla is one of the most edible types of cactus plants.

While many animals eat prickly pear for its cactus fruit, cholla is different because the most common part to eat are the flowers. They are full of many nutritional benefits, which is why they are a delicacy for many animals.

If you’re interested in learning more about which animals eat cholla cacti, keep reading to find out.

What Animals Eat Cactus In New Mexico?

Animals like pocket mice, sheep, and peccary are known to eat cholla cactus. These animals live in the wild of New Mexico where they are known to have a diet that consists of these cacti.

Jumping cholla is very common in the Sonoran Desert, providing nutrition to many of their animals.

Many people wouldn’t expect animals to like this plant because of how frightening it appears. The jumping cholla is covered in hollow spines that easily attach to anything their needles touch.

This has made many people fear going near them. However, many animals that reside in New Mexico love to eat this type of cactus. Which animals enjoy cholla?

Desert Pocket Mouse

The desert pocket mouse is commonly found in deserts across the US and Mexico. They normally reside in areas with sparse vegetation. Cholla is one of the main types of cactus that they eat, along with yucca, burroweed, and mesquite.

Bighorn Sheep

The desert in New Mexico is known for being a place of heavy drought. This has led many sheep and deer to rely on jumping cholla as a food and water source. The sheep and deer enjoy the juicy fruits of this cactus so much that they are willing to ignore its sharp spines.


Peccaries are hoofed-mammal that are very pig-like. They can be found in either deserts or grasslands across New Mexico.

These mammals are omnivores and they prefer eating roots, grass, and seeds. However, they love to eat fruits and cacti. While prickly pear is their preferred cactus, they also enjoy cholla.


Jackrabbits are common in New Mexico and they eat a wide range of plants, including cactus.

Their diet depends on which plants are currently in season, which is why jackrabbits that live in the desert enjoy the availability of cholla. Although these animals are small, they eat a lot of plants in a day. The average jackrabbit can consume up to one pound of cactus in a day.


Cacti provide an excellent food source for iguanas. They prefer to eat the fruit and flowers to avoid the spines since the spines could hurt them. Even people with pet iguanas can feed them other parts of the jumping cholla as long as the spines have been removed.

Do Cows Eat Cholla Cactus?

Do Cows Eat Cholla Cactus

Studies have been done and it turns out that if the spines are burnt off of a cactus, it is a very nutritional food source for cows.

Many cows enjoy eating prickly pear cactus fruits. Most cattle can consume up to 100 lbs of prickly pear in a day. Cactus is actually a more efficient protein source than dried grass.

While prickly pear is preferred by cows, studies have shown that cholla is also digestible in their stomachs. Not only is it an excellent protein source, but it also provides them with carbohydrates.

Which Other Animals Eat Cholla?

There are many desert animals that can benefit from the nutrients that cholla provides.

Since vegetation is space in many desert areas, the nutrients these cacti provide attract many different species. Many insects, like beetles and ants, enjoy the cholla and its seeds.

There are many edible parts to the cholla, which is why it attracts so many different species. Some animals like its unopened flower buds, while others prefer the plant for its nectar or seeds. These are some of the other animals that eat cholla:

  • Squirrels
  • Tortoise
  • Bats
  • Javelinas
  • Bees
  • Hummingbirds ; other types of birds

Cholla is a very nutritional type of cactus plant. Although these plants are covered in sticky hollow spines, many animals have found a way to enjoy chollas without getting hurt.

This is because cholla is one type of cactus that has many edible components. Animals can safely eat flowers, fruits, or seeds without getting hurt.

This type of cactus is mostly eaten by animals that live in the desert. They are adapted to living in areas with low vegetation and can benefit from the many nutritional values of this plant.

The nectar from the cholla cacti also attracts many birds and bees, which can help with reproduction.


When the cacti get spread throughout regions with low vegetation, it provides more food sources for the desert animals. These plants may be spiky, but they are an excellent source of nutrition.

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