What do Raccoons Eat?

what do raccoons eat

Raccoons can see both in the wild and living in urban areas. Have you ever found a raccoon raiding your yard for food? It’s probably left you wondering ‘what do raccoons like to eat?

Raccoons are omnivores which means they eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, insects, nuts, and grains. Raccoons are also opportunistic eaters which means they will eat anything they have the chance to. A raccoon’s insatiable appetite is essential to help them store fat over winter periods. Baby Raccoons will drink only their mothers’ milk for the first 12 weeks after they are born.

So now you know that raccoons will eat pretty much most things they come into contact with. However, a raccoon’s diet will change all the time with their environment, seasons, and food availability. Yet they do have their favorite foods and their own little eating quirks.

This article will take you through the raccoons’ diet in both wild and urban areas. It may even just help you to keep the raccoons out of your yard.

Sound good? Then let’s get started.

What Do Raccoons eat In the Wild?

1. Fish & Crustaceans

Raccoons love to eat animals that live in the water. That’s because their main hunting areas in the wild are in shallow water.

You won’t find raccoons jumping in the water or spending hours trying to catch a fish. If one is near them and they can easily catch it, they will.

They’ll really take whatever is available to them at the edge of a stream, river, or pond. They can usually eat a lot of clams and crayfish this way.

If you have fish in a shallow pond in your yard, then raccoons will try to catch your prized koi or goldfish.

2. Amphibians And Reptiles

Another raccoon favorite is eating frogs near a water source. Frogs can be quite easy for raccoons to catch, especially in larger numbers.

As well as frogs, raccoons also like to feat on other amphibians such as toads and salamanders. Amphibians are favored by raccoons. That’s because they have soft flesh and hollow bones which is easy for raccoons to chew on.

You’ll find that raccoons also like to eat smaller reptiles such as turtles, lizards, and snakes. They will often use rocks to stun or immobilize these animals first.

Eating amphibians and reptiles can be quite risky as they can be poisonous or venomous. Raccoons learn quickly to avoid the species that are most dangerous to them.

3. Birds

Raccoons will eat birds in the wild. Birds are full of nutrients and proteins that raccoons need to survive.

A raccoon won’t go out of its way to catch a bird, but will happily eat an injured adult bird. They will also raid bird nests and eat the eggs and baby chicks they find inside.

If you own pet chickens, ducks, or turkeys, then you’ll need to keep them safe from raccoons in your area. That’s because raccoons will easily kill and eat any free-roaming chickens in your yard.

The bad news is that if a raccoon gets near your pet poultry, it won’t just stop at one. They are so greedy they’ll keep going until they kill and eat as many as they can.

4. Animals

A raccoon’s diet in the wild is made up of 90% meat in the summertime when it’s easy to find. They’ll hunt small animals that they can easily catch.

Common animals raccoons like to eat are:

  • Rabbits
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Squirrels

Another way that raccoons can get a good source of meat is by eating carrion (dead animals). It won’t be their first choice of food, but they aren’t fussy about eating a bit of roadkill they come across.

You may be wondering if a raccoon would try to attack and eat your dog or cat.

A raccoon will fight with your cat or dog if they feel attacked. They may seriously injure or even kill them. This would be a defensive action and not to eat your pet. Ultimately raccoons are pretty lazy when it comes to food, especially in urban areas. There are simply easier food sources than a pet who will put up too much of a fight.

Other smaller, less feisty, pets that you keep outdoors will be a target for hungry raccoons. This includes rabbits, rodents, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. Make sure their cages are well protected from clever raccoons who will happily attack them.

5. Fruit, vegetables, and nuts

Raccoons will eat fruits, vegetables, and nuts that they find in the wild. This will provide them with energy, vitamins, minerals, and fiber in their diet to keep them healthy.

They can easily climb trees and pick fruit off the higher branches. The funny thing about raccoons when they eat fruit and vegetable they often just take a bite or two and then leave it.

You may notice this tell-tale raccoon signature on tomato plants or fruit trees.

One vegetable that attracts raccoons like crazy is a corn plant. They will raid a whole corn patch in one night if they get the chance. So it’s important to be mindful of this if you have a raccoon problem in your area.

Nuts and berries are another raccoon favorite. Especially in wintertime when other food sources are low. They will eat things such as acorns, peanuts, and beechnuts.

6. Insects

As raccoons love to forage for food, they are excellent at finding insects to eat. Insects and spiders are easy for raccoons to eat and provide them with a great source of protein.

Raccoons will happily dig to get the biggest juiciest insects they can find. Earthworms and June bug grubs are a particular favorite. That’s because they are soft and juicy to eat.

You may find that raccoons will dig up large patches of your yard in search of these insects.

Other insects that raccoons like to eat and slow-moving ones such as snails and slugs. Again they are soft and have that slimy texture that raccoons seem to like from their food.

Raccoons will eat pretty much any insect they can get their hands on. Larvae are easy for them to eat in large amounts.

7. Milk

Baby raccoons (kits) won’t rely on solid food until they are around 3 months old. During that time the kits will drink raccoon breastmilk from their mother. They’ll do this until they are old enough to forage for themselves.

If a mother raccoon is killed or relocated whilst they are very young then the kits will likely die.

At around 8 weeks old baby raccoons will start to follow their mother out of the den to look for food. During this time the kits will learn how to find food sources. They may even start to try softer foods such as egg yolks or soft insects.

Young raccoons will stay with their mother for around 1 year. This helps to ensure they are able to forage on their own through different seasons.

What Do Raccoons Eat In Urban Areas?

8. Birdseed & Pet food

One of the easiest food sources raccoons find in urban areas is from bird feeders and outdoor pet bowls. Its food literally served up on a plate for them.

Raccoons will easily empty a bird feeder or eat the remains of both wet and dry pet food.

You’ll find raccoons are attracted to yards with birdseed and pet food because of both food smells and the easy access to water. Gardens with a bird feeder often have a birdbath to attract the birds, and pets often have water bowls. This water source is attractive to the raccoons too.

The best way to avoid attracting raccoons with pet food is to bring anything you can indoors at night. For bird feeders make it difficult for the raccoons to climb near the feeders. Long, high, thin poles are difficult for them to climb. Adding a raccoon baffle also stops them in their tracks.

9. Trash

The allure of a stink garbage can is like heaven for a raccoon. All those different smells mean there is a lot of food that they can get access to in one handy container.

Raccoon will knock over and raid the trash can to get to all the waste food part inside. Your trash will have a variety of scraps and food particles left on old packaging. The raccoons will help themselves to it all.

Even junk food like pizza or burgers will be devoured by the raccoons. And hen they’re done, they’ll leave one heck of a mess in your yard.

The best way to stop raccoons from getting into your trash can is to add a strap (like this one) onto the lid. This will stop the raccoons from getting access to your trash bags no matter how hard they try.

Related Questions

Why do raccoons wash food?

You may have seen raccoons dipping their food in water before they eat it. You may think they are washing the food, but they aren’t.

When raccoons are duking food in water they are trying to get sensory feedback from their paws. Wet or moist food helps raccoons to get a better understanding of the food they are eating.

When you think about it raccoons like a lot of wet or slimy foods such as fish, insects, and frogs. And because they naturally forage near rivers, it is a feeding habit they learn at a young kit.

what can raccoons not eat?

Raccoons will east pretty much anything they can get their hands on. However, there are a few foods that they don’t like. Usually, these foods irritate a raccoon’s sense of touch, smell, and taste.

Food that raccoons don’t like are:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Chilies
  • Mint
  • Spices

You’ll find that there are a few plants that raccoons don’t like to go near. That means they often won’t eat these vegetables straight from the plant.

Common vegetable plants raccoons avoid are:

  • Cucumber
  • Pumpkins
  • Green beans

The reason behind this is that raccoons don’t like their large prickly leaves and vines. Although if you have these vegetables available to the raccoons without the plant foliage, they happily eat them.

Knowing this information about these food types can help you to naturally deter raccoons from your yard.

Final Thoughts

So to wrap it up, you’ll know that raccoons will eat pretty much most things they can get their hands on. They have a varied diet that will change depending on their location, season, and what is immediately available to them.

Raccoons are omnivores that eat both plant and animal matter. They are opportunistic and have adapted well to living in both urban and wild areas.

Although Raccoons love to eat most things, there are a few naturally accounting food that will deter them with smell or texture.

Don’t attempt to feed a raccoon in your yard or in the wild. They have excellent foraging skills and can survive without human help for food. You may just open up a whole can of worms that will lead to a lot of expensive damage to your property.

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