Raccoons are omnivores, eating whatever food they can find as they trundle along in your local neighborhood or in the forest. Or wetlands. Or meadows. Really, these little masked bandits live everywhere! On the flip side, they can become prey themselves to larger animals and birds.
Predators of raccoons include large mammals like alligators, coyotes, panthers, and wolves, along with birds like hawks, owls, and eagles. Raccoons use techniques to avoid predators, such as being nocturnal and using defense tactics like hissing, growling, and barking to intimidate predators.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and at some point, a carnivore has to eat. Read on as we take an in-depth look at the 11 predators that eat raccoons.
How Do Raccoons Defend Themselves?
Raccoons are not easy prey. They’re considered medium-sized mammals, usually weighing in at around 15-25 pounds. It takes more than just your average house cat to take these rotund animals down.
There isn’t a single predator out there who prefers raccoons over other animals. More often than not, these predators are preying on raccoons because a specific opportunity arose. It might be that the raccoon is old or young, sick, or injured.
A healthy raccoon is not a typical target of predators. But when they are, how exactly can a raccoon defend itself against, say, a coyote or fox?
Raccoons Are Nocturnal
Some predators like hawks, alligators, fishers, and mountain lions are more active during the day.
Raccoons use this to their advantage by mostly chilling in their dens during the day. Seeing a raccoon in the daytime isn’t unheard of, but they prefer to hunt and travel at night when they’re less likely to be seen by these predators.
Yes, this means that raccoons also do sleep at night as well. You can learn more about the places that raccoons nest here.
Raccoons Can Climb
Despite their round bodies, raccoons are surprisingly nimble. They can easily scale a tree, or your porch, by using their human-like paws and sharp claws to climb up the bark.
Their ability to climb is a huge advantage against some predators like alligators, foxes, coyotes, and wolves.
Depending on how dense the trees are, raccoons can use the branches as a highway system or simply wait it out until the predator gets hungry and leaves to find easier prey.
If you’re interested, you can learn more about how raccoons use their paws here.
Raccoons Use Intimidation
Have you ever seen a housecat puff up when it’s scared? Arch it’s back and hiss? Raccoons and many other animals employ the same technique when they come face to face with a predator.
It’s an intimidation tactic!
Carnivores have a delicate balance of energy that is key to their survival. If they expend too much energy taking down their prey, it won’t be worth it. Raccoons use this to their advantage against any predator trying to take a bite.
Raccoons try to convince predators that they are more trouble than they’re worth by puffing up their fur, arching their back, and thrashing their tails around. They’ll also make hissing, growling, barking, or screaming noises to try to deter the predator from attacking.
While making this ruckus, they’ll often bare their sharp teeth and jump up and down to appear bigger and more aggressive than they actually are.
Basically, the raccoon is saying to the predator, “I’m not going down without a fight!”
We humans may see this as ridiculous. In our eyes, a mountain lion could obviously take down a raccoon with no problem…
But imagine you are a 1-year-old mountain lion who has never seen a raccoon before, and it starts jumping around like a crazy, caffeine-addicted lunatic growling and hissing? You’d be a little intimidated too!
Raccoons Will Attack As A Last Resort
When backed into a corner with no escape and a predator closing in, raccoons will attack as a last-ditch attempt at survival.
Raccoons are predators themselves and equipped with the proper tools to take down small prey like mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits, and even young alligators.
They’ll use their sharp teeth and claws to scratch and bite at predators. Raccoons are deceptively strong for their small bodies, able to take down full-grown chickens and fend off foxes and coyotes on some occasions.
Typically, their agile nature and intimidation tactics are enough to keep them safe from predators. In fact, studies have shown that even when raccoons and coyotes are in the same vicinity, raccoons show no fear of them.
11 Animal Predators That Eat Raccoons
Raccoons most often fall prey to animals when they are young before they know how to properly defend themselves. Another reason they are targeted is if they are very old, sick, or injured, such as after a car collision or after a fight with another raccoon.
Let’s take a look at the 11 most common predators of raccoons and in what ways they manage to prey on these clever, resourceful, athletic animals.
When you’re done reading the below, check out our piece on what animals a raccoon eats!
Alligators Eat Raccoons
American alligators aren’t a problem for raccoons that live in the northern states or deserts. These massive predators average around 8-12 feet, and the biggest of the bunch can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute.
Alligators only live near sources of water, which happens to be a raccoon’s favorite habitat as well. From North Carolina to Texas, alligators and raccoons coexist.
The reason raccoons and alligators may come into close contact is because raccoons love crayfish and clams.
Additionally, if you’ve ever heard that raccoons wash their food before eating it, it’s not for cleanliness. Their paws are highly sensitive in water, and they are typically feeling their food to make sure it’s edible or to understand more clearly what they’ve caught.
Unfortunately, splashing and making motions in the water can attract the attention of an alligator, who may mistake the splashing for an injured animal.
Intimidation tactics don’t work well against ambush predators. If an alligator strikes a raccoon and gets its jaws on it, the raccoon doesn’t stand a chance, even if it bites and scratches the gator.
If they’re not caught unawares, such as a raccoon that comes across a basking alligator, they may be able to intimidate their way out of it or escape by climbing a tree.
Coyotes Prey On Raccoons
Raccoons and coyotes have one thing in common: they’ve adapted well to human expansion. While bobcats and mountain lions remain elusive near human civilizations, raccoons and coyotes thrive.
Unfortunately, that means these two rascals run into each other on occasion while out hunting or finding cover from the wary eyes of humans.
Raccoons aren’t a large part of a coyote’s diet, but the wily coyote is opportunistic and will not pass up a meal if it wanders too close. Coyotes prey mostly on white-tailed deer, which is their #1 source of food. They’ll also scrounge up plants, rats, voles, rabbits, and even foxes if they come upon one another.
Coyotes are diurnal, being most active during the day. However, around human activity (which is just about everywhere nowadays), coyotes have become nocturnal to avoid humans. When hunting, coyote packs will typically split up, and they will hunt in solitude or in pairs.
Most of the time, raccoons and coyotes will stay out of each other’s way. Raccoons are big enough prey that coyotes don’t always want to bother with them. Each animal has an extraordinary sense of smell, so staying well apart isn’t too difficult for them.
Large Birds Of Prey Are Predators Of Raccoons
Raptors are the cool, leather-jacket-wearing, elbowing-the-jukebox kind of birds. They’re graceful, fly at high speeds, have amazing vision, and are incredibly acrobatic.
And believe it or not, they’ll actually prey on raccoons!
Now, remember, these rotund animals can weigh in at 20 pounds or more, so the bird in question has to be BIG, or the raccoon in question has to be small.
- Great Horned Owls are a big concern with juvenile raccoons. Baby and teenage raccoons that wander too far from the den can fall prey to horned owls, who mostly hunt at night. Some adult raccoons will find themselves in a fight with a horned owl when they try to steal eggs from its nest.
- Golden Eagles are pretty high up on the list of largest birds in North America. They can have a wingspan of up to 7 feet or more and weigh in at 13 pounds fully grown. Even though these large birds have been reported taking down bighorn sheep, they rarely prey on raccoons.
Wait…did I say bighorn sheep? Yep. Golden Eagles are crazy!
Raccoons prefer woodlands and heavily forested areas near water sources. Golden Eagles, on the other hand, prefer open territory so they can see their prey with their amazing vision. So these two animals rarely coincide in the same habitat.
But when they do, Golden Eagles won’t be afraid to hunt a raccoon.
- Bald Eagles are an American Icon. These birds were pushed to the brink of extinction and have come back in force! Lucky for us because these amazing birds are an important part of the ecosystem and feed mainly on fish.
With that being said, bald eagles won’t pass up a small-to-medium-sized raccoon if the opportunity arises. Bald eagles aren’t particularly picky about the state of their food. They’ll take a raccoon live or feed on one on the side of the road.
Wolves Are Major Predators Of Raccoons
Wolves are pack animals and will hunt as a pack to take down large prey like deer, bison, and elk. They’re the largest members of the Canidae family that all dogs belong to.
Although they look like coyotes in terms of fur color and facial structure, they are much larger. While coyotes weigh around 20-35 lbs on average, the smallest wolf still weighs around 60 lbs as an adult, with larger males weighing up to 115 lbs, according to Colorado State University. Conversely, raccoons usually weigh around 15 lbs – placing them at a serious disadvantage.
Another difference between coyotes and wolves is their range. Coyotes are more likely to run into raccoons simply because of their numbers and vast range of habitat. Wolves are not well tolerated by humans and so have had their ranges reduced significantly.
This doesn’t mean wolves and raccoons never overlap their habitats. However, when wolf packs are hunting, they typically do not waste their time on a raccoon. Instead, they’ll look for larger prey. The only time a raccoon is really in trouble with a wolf is if it is hunting alone.
Snakes Eat Raccoons
Raccoons are opportunistic feeders and have been known to prey on snakes if the situation calls for it—mostly small snakes and ones that are harmless like garters.
In the Florida Everglades, the tables have turned for our masked bandits. Due to the exotic pet trade, both Burmese pythons and anacondas have been released into the everglades. And they have flourished!
As if the place wasn’t already crawling with oversized reptiles… A Yale interview showed that pythons, in particular, were devastating to raccoon and possum populations in the everglades.
Despite this, in most other parts of the United States, snakes and raccoons don’t interact often. Rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes can be a potential threat to raccoons, but only if the raccoon tries to bother them or eat them, or the snake is startled. Venomous snakes would rather go after smaller prey like mice and moles.
Fisher Cats Are Predators Of Raccoons
Fishers are part of the weasel family, closely related to martens and otters. They once inhabited large swaths of the United States and Canada, but over-trapping and deforestation have reduced their range significantly.
They now inhabit some of the northern states of the US, including Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. They also live in parts of Canada. Fishers hang out in forests, similar to raccoons, and build their dens in a lot of the same areas.
Fishers are well-equipped carnivores and hunt small- to mid-sized mammals. They are well-known for being some of the only animals capable of hunting porcupines.
They also eat raccoons. Fishers like to den near fallen logs, rock crevices, and in the hollow of large trees. It so happens that raccoons also den in these areas. Because of this, fisher-raccoon interactions often happen where fishers live.
Raccoons weigh more than fishers, which weigh about 10 pounds as compared to a 20-pound raccoon. Fishers are longer by about a foot, but most of that is tail. When raccoons and fishers interact, it’s really anyone’s guess who would win out.
Both fishers and raccoons can be vicious when cornered or threatened. Both possess claws, although a fisher’s claws are partially retractable like that of a cat. This gives them an advantage when climbing trees.
Fishers typically prey on animals that are smaller than themselves. And although raccoons are smaller in size, they are not smaller in weight. It’s unlikely that fishers actively hunt raccoons, but if they are particularly hungry or find a smaller raccoon, they will take advantage of the situation.
If you’re interested, check out our guide on repelling fisher cats from your property here.
Bobcats Prey On Raccoons
Many people live their entire lives without ever seeing a bobcat. These elusive creatures like to keep to themselves. With that being said, bobcats actually live in almost every state of the US.
Recently, bobcats have even started venturing into suburban neighborhoods while searching for food. Unlike their cousin lynx, bobcats prefer warmer weather and have trouble finding prey in areas with heavy snow.
Male and female bobcats vary greatly in their size. While male bobcats can weigh up to 30 pounds or more, females can be as small as a large house cat!
For that reason alone, female bobcats are very unlikely to prey on raccoons. They are more inclined to eat rabbits and hares, according to a 2005 study.
If I were a raccoon, I would be a lot more concerned with male bobcats. In the same study mentioned above, they found that of 85 studied bobcats, up to 14% of them preyed on raccoons.
Bobcats may be elusive, but they are very adaptable and can be found in several different environments. From heavily forested areas to swamps and even in desert scrublands.
While hunting, the patient bobcat will travel up to 7 miles to stalk their prey. Their hind feet land in the same space as their front feet to minimize sound. They use this silent hunting tactic when hunting raccoons, and use their powerful jaws and claws to finish the job.
Red Foxes Are Predators Of Younger Raccoons
Red foxes are in the same family as wolves and coyotes and are just as adaptable. They can be found pretty much anywhere in the US and stretch as far south as Central America and as far north as the Arctic Circle.
Raccoons and red foxes often share the same habitats, and both are adaptable to new environments. They are also both nocturnal animals, but foxes are often seen during the day hunting or traveling between cover.
The preferred food of a red fox is rabbits, mice, and some fruits, according to the University of Michigan. For a red fox to eat a raccoon, it is more likely roadkill than a fox actually hunting one. However, foxes will go after raccoon kits or immature raccoons as they are about the same size as a rabbit.
Red foxes are solitary creatures. They do not form packs like coyotes or wolves. It’s for this reason that a red fox is not likely to attack a raccoon regularly. It’s more likely that a specific situation arises, such as an old or sick raccoon or a very young raccoon.
If you need to repel foxes, check out our guide on the scents that foxes can’t stand here.
Mountain Lions Prey On Raccoons
Much like the bobcat, mountain lions are elusive creatures. You will likely go your entire life without ever encountering one.
For a raccoon, the same could actually be true. Mountain lions mainly prey on deer, their favored cuisine. They prefer mountainous regions, canyons, and areas with heavy cover and little interaction with people. Where raccoons and mountain lions overlap in their habitat, mountain lions are still unlikely to pursue raccoons regularly. They are more likely to go after deer.
Raccoons are, of course, found everywhere in the US, but they tend to avoid the rocky mountains and certain high-elevation terrain that mountain lions favor. However, mountain lions do not solely live in high-elevation areas.
In terms of behavior, mountain lions are not strictly nocturnal or diurnal. Research has shown that they will actually change their activity based on that of their prey. If the deer around them are more active at night, so are they, and vice versa.
That’s A Wrap!
That’s all we have for now on the animal predators that eat raccoons.
To recap, here are the 11 predators that eat raccoons:
- Great Horned Owls
- Golden Eagles
- Bald Eagles
- Red Fox
- Mountain Lions
It can be a cruel world out there, but raccoons are pretty well-equipped to avoid most predators. Some are easier to evade, like fishers and red foxes, while others are harder, like coyotes, great horned owls, and bobcats. Still, others like the mountain lion and bald eagle aren’t all that interested in eating raccoons in the first place!
If you need to repel raccoons from your yard, take a look at our guide on the scents that raccoons hate here.
Chitwood, M. C., Lashley, M. A., Higdon, S. D., DePerno, C. S., & Moorman, C. E. (2020). Raccoon Vigilance and Activity Patterns When Sympatric with Coyotes. Diversity, 12(9), 341. https://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/12/9/341
McLean, M. L., McCay, T. S., & Lovallo, M. J. (2005). Influence of Age, Sex and Time of Year on Diet of the Bobcat (Lynx rufus) in Pennsylvania. The American Midland Naturalist, 153(2), 450-453.
Swingen, M. B., DePerno, C. S., & Moorman, C. E. (2015). Seasonal Coyote Diet Composition at a Low-Productivity Site. Southeastern Naturalist, 14(2), 397-404.
Woodman, N., Dove, C. J., & Peurach, S. C. (2005). A Curious Pellet From a Great Horned Owl (Bubo Virginianus). Northeastern Naturalist, 12(2), 127-132.