Raccoons are creatures that are native to North America, and most people living in this part of the world have seen at least one skulking about. Although raccoons are fascinating to many individuals, some will be surprised to discover that raccoons eat more than just plants and garbage from dumpsters. Raccoons actually eat other animals as well. As a result, you are likely wondering: what animals do raccoons eat?
Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they eat both animals and plants. Raccoons generally forage for easy-to-catch animals such as snails and clams. However, raccoons have been known to eat crayfish, frogs, fish, turtles, snakes, muskrats, rabbits, squirrels, mice, rats, gophers, and birds.
In this article, we will be listing all of the common animals that raccoons eat. In addition to this, we will be explaining why a raccoon may look at a particular animal as their next meal. Are you ready for all of your raccoon questions to be answered? Let’s get to it!
Raccoons Are Omnivorous
Raccoons are the classic example of an omnivore. This means that raccoons eat both plants and animals (and, really, anything available). Unfortunately, this can make raccoons a real headache for farmers, gardeners, and homeowners.
Raccoons have also been known to eat seeds, nuts, and acorns. In urban settings, it is very common to find raccoons foraging through dumpsters and eating pet food that has been left outside.
Why do Raccoons Need to Eat Meat?
As omnivores, raccoons need to eat meat from time to time to stay healthy. Meat provides raccoons with protein and essential vitamins and minerals that they cannot get by eating plants alone.
Although raccoons do not necessarily need to eat meat for every meal, they do need to eat animals here and there to receive enough nutrients to survive.
To stay healthy and get enough nutrients, raccoons require a varied diet of many different types of plants, seeds, nuts, and animals. The typical raccoon will usually forage for whatever is easiest and takes the least amount of energy.
As for meat in their diet, raccoons need to have a balance between seafood and other meat sources such as poultry and rodents. Eggs are also a common meal for raccoons.
Now to the good stuff! We’ll go through 10 animals that raccoons eat, and why they eat them. If you’re having a raccoon problem on your property, understanding what they eat and why they eat it could help solve your masked bandit issue.
As we have mentioned previously, raccoons are opportunistic when it comes to catching their food, and crayfish are fairly easy for them to catch.
This makes crayfish a tasty, quick, and easy meal for raccoons, giving them the nutrients and protein they need to survive.
raccoons typically set up their homes near sources of water such as lakes, riverbeds, and bogs. These environments provide both a source of fresh water and a source of their favorite foods. As a result, crayfish are a very common food source for raccoons.
Let’s face it, clams aren’t the fastest creatures in the animal kingdom. Due to this and the fact that many raccoons prefer to live near a water source, clams are a staple to many raccoon diets.
Clams do not move around like most other animals, so raccoons can forage for clams just like they would forage for things like nuts and seeds. This makes clams possibly the easiest and quickest animal-based meal that a raccoon can have.
Another reason why raccoons often eat clams and other slow-moving animals such as snails is because of the way they catch their food. Raccoons have sensitive paws, and they use this heightened sense to find and catch their food.
Water makes a raccoon’s paws even more sensitive, and this is part of the reason why raccoons gravitate towards water sources when one is available to them.
In addition to protein, carbohydrates, and fat, clams provide raccoons with a lot of vitamins and minerals. For example, clams contain vitamins like B12 and omega 3s. Clams are also a good source of iron, zinc, and other essential minerals for raccoons. Who knew!
You may be surprised to discover that raccoons are actually strong swimmers. Despite this, raccoons are pretty lazy. They don’t typically swim out in the middle of a lake and dive dramatically for fish. Instead, they’ll opt for fish that are easy and slow.
Raccoons are good at finding and catching food in shallow water due to their heightened sense of touch in their paws. As a result, many raccoons catch fish by grabbing them out of shallow pockets near the water’s edge.
Fish are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals for raccoons. Although every type of fish has a different amount of nutrients, they are usually a good source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Fish are also a good source of important minerals like iron and zinc. Small fish that can be eaten whole are a great source of calcium as well.
Frogs are another animal that is commonly found near water sources like rivers, lakes, and marshes. Although frogs can move (hop!) quickly and be somewhat difficult to catch, raccoons occasionally get their crafty little paws on these amphibians.
A raccoon’s range of amphibious cuisine can include frogs and toads that live near water or even tree frogs if a raccoon finds one after they have climbed into a tree.
Frogs are an excellent source of protein for raccoons, and they provide many other important nutrients as well. These nutrients include vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and potassium. As a result, frogs do not only provide an easy meal in some cases but a nutritious one as well.
Snails get picked on a lot for their…well, snail-like speeds. Like clams, snails are pretty easy to catch for a raccoon. They are a welcomed protein-packed snack for our masked bandits.
Because many snails live in environments with shallow water, they’re an easy food source for a lazy raccoon. The snail’s slow speeds combined with a raccoon’s heightened sense of touch in water make them easy prey.
Snails provide raccoons with a decent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Most notably, snails have a large number of minerals like magnesium and phosphorus when compared to some of the other items on our list.
Although snails are not a super food for raccoons, they are easy to catch, meaning the raccoon does not have to expend a lot of energy.
This relationship between energy spent and energy gained is an important survival tactic for raccoons, especially during the winter months.
If you think snails get a bad rep for their speed…Turtles usually live near freshwater sources like lakes and rivers. As a result, raccoons often share their habitat with turtles, and they can catch them easily with or without their wet paws.
Of course, wet paws provide raccoons with an even more heightened sense of touch.
Turtles provide raccoons with a lot of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Although they might not be as calorically- and nutritionally-dense as some of the other animals on our list, turtles are still a better meal than scraps out of the trash.
Snakes and Other Reptiles
Although snakes and other reptiles such as lizards are not always found in or near water, raccoons still often share their habitats with these slithery animals. That means they’re on the menu for an opportunistic raccoon!
Because many lizards are fairly quick on their feet, raccoons are more likely to eat a lizard after it has died or been injured. This is also true for some species of snakes. However, young snakes tend to move slower than adults. As a result, small snakes are easier for a raccoon to catch.
Reptiles provide raccoons with more protein and nutrients than other things in their diet. For example, reptiles can be a better source of protein than animals like clams and snails.
However, some rodents still provide more protein due to their size alone. Don’t be surprised if you find a raccoon catching a small snake though, and it is important to remember that raccoons are still opportunists when it comes to catching their food.
raccoons will often eat rodents, especially rats and mice, but sometimes rabbits and squirrels as well, depending on the situation.
raccoons are not known to be the most agile of hunters. They are much more likely to eat a rodent after it has already died than actively hunt one. Typical lazy omnivore…
This is particularly true if the rodent is fairly large and hard to catch such as rabbits and squirrels. Nevertheless, raccoons have been known to eat infant rodents, injured rodents, and small rodents as well.
Rodents provide a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals for raccoons. However, some rodents are a better source of nutrients than others. For example, animals like muskrats and rats are not as good of a nutrient source for raccoons due to their diets.
Here are the rodents that are most commonly eaten by raccoons:
Although not extremely common, a raccoon can and will eat a muskrat if the opportunity arises. Muskrats tend to hang out in still or slow-moving water, sharing a habitat with many of the raccoon’s favorite meals – crayfish and clams.
Truthfully, a raccoon that isn’t too hungry will likely ignore a muskrat due to its large size.
It takes a lot of energy for a raccoon to take down a muskrat. However, a raccoon will usually win in a fight against a muskrat, and their large size means a large meal for the raccoon. Muskrats are not as nutritional as some of the other items on this list though.
Like muskrats, rabbits can be difficult for a raccoon to catch. However, it is not impossible, especially if the rabbit is cornered or injured. The reason why you don’t see a raccoon out hunting rabbits is due to how well a rabbit can hide and how fast it can run.
For a raccoon to catch a rabbit, they need to catch them completely by surprise by ambushing them or trapping them in an enclosed area. This is very difficult to do in the wild!
Pet rabbits are at a higher risk of hungry raccoons than wild rabbits. Homemade bunny hutches can easily be broken into by a wily raccoon. You can protect your rabbits by providing them with a secure and raccoon-proof hutch such as the Aivituvin Rabbit Hutch.
Additionally, you can also make some modifications to your home and yard to keep raccoons away, or use scents they dislike. We’ll go over more tips later in this article on how to keep raccoons out of your yard.
In addition to rabbits and muskrats, raccoons have also been known to eat smaller rodents such as squirrels. Although a healthy, full-grown squirrel will usually outrun a raccoon and dash up a tree, raccoons do eat squirrels in certain situations when able.
Squirrels are quite fast and thus, adult raccoons will very much so struggle to keep up with them. Squirrels generally have a speed of up to 20 mph, while a raccoon can run at speeds of up to 15mph. Furthermore, squirrels are much more agile than raccoons, making it all the more likely that an adult raccoon will not be able to catch and eat an adult squirrel easily.
Generally raccoons will only be able to eat squirrels if there a nest of baby squirrels, if a squirrel is injured and cannot escape, or if a squirrel has been found already deceased.
Unlike some of the other rodents on our list, mice are more of the size and speed a raccoon is looking for in a meal.
In fact, some raccoons even catch mice when they are bored and eat them later in a similar way that cats do. Unfortunately, this can lead to a raccoon infestation if you have mice in places that a raccoon could easily get into such as an attic or barn.
Like mice, rats are pretty easy for raccoons to catch. If you have a rat problem, you’re likely to attract a raccoon problem. This can turn into a serious issue if the rat problem exists in your attic, garage, or barn.
There are plenty of sources and tips out there to help you keep a rat-free home and what to do if you already have a rat problem. This will lessen the chance of attracting predators like raccoons or snakes.
Since rats tend to inhabit areas near people, raccoons and rats are very likely to cross paths, even in cities. Therefore, rats can quickly become a staple to the city-dwelling raccoon.
Like rabbits and muskrats, gophers can be difficult for a raccoon to catch. Gophers live mostly underground. When threatened, they will retreat into these hidey holes to avoid predators.
Raccoons are not very likely to follow a gopher underground unless it was noticeably injured. This is mainly because the raccoon would have to expend energy digging, as gopher holes are not big enough for raccoons.
That being said, raccoons will eat injured gophers. In addition to this, a raccoon will eat young gophers, and sometimes they may even raid gopher nests.
Healthy birds that can easily fly away are a hard catch for raccoons. Like hunting for fish, raccoons will never run after a bird or leap through the air to catch one. Instead, they’ll opt for an injured bird or scavenge one that is already deceased.
Raccoons also commonly eat vulnerable ground birds such as chickens and ducks. If you have chickens, ducks, or other land-dwelling birds, you probably already know about the threat of raccoons. But if you’re not aware, don’t sweat it! We will explain how you can protect your ground birds later in this article.
Raccoons will also raid bird nests. Unfortunately, it’s an easy target for raccoons, who are quite agile climbers. Not only are baby birds in danger of being caught by raccoons, but so are bird’s eggs.
Birds and bird eggs provide raccoons with a lot of nutrients and protein, so raccoons are very likely to catch birds when the chance arises.
Worms and Insects
In addition to all of the larger animals on our list, raccoons also commonly forage for worms and insects. These animals provide raccoons with only a small amount of protein, but they are usually readily available for a raccoon to snack on.
This can be especially true for raccoons who are living in an urban setting because they are more likely to forage and eat whatever they can get their paws on.
As we have mentioned before, bird eggs are commonly on a raccoon’s menu. In addition to bird eggs, raccoons will eat pretty much any other type of egg imaginable including snake and lizard eggs.
Raccoons like to eat eggs for a couple of reasons. The first is that they have a lot of protein and nutrients, so raccoons receive a lot of nutritional benefits from eating eggs.
The second reason is that the energy gained far outweighs the energy spent. Although a mother bird would attack a raccoon coming near her eggs, mother birds often leave to get food.
This is usually the time when a raccoon swoops in. Similarly, raccoons can scare birds and reptiles away from their nests, especially if the bird or reptile is particularly small.
Will a Raccoon Eat Your Pets?
Raccoons are known for being crafty, creative, and intelligent. They can open latches and even know how to turn handles. For this reason, it can be a little daunting to have outdoor animals in any area where there are raccoons around.
Animals such as rabbits, chickens, ducks, and koi fish are most vulnerable to raccoons. If you plan to keep these types of animals, you’ll want to make some modifications to your yard to deter raccoons from unwanted visits. Additionally, there are plenty of raccoon-proof enclosures that are available online.
For a raccoon-proof enclosure, it is important to make sure there is secure fencing around the coop or pen. Provide your animals/pets with a safe place to hide. Most animals have better hearing and sight than humans, and they will know when a predator is approaching and will want to hide.
Make sure the enclosure has a secure top, as raccoons are agile climbers. The perimeter fencing should stretch down into the ground beneath the pen for at least six inches to prevent raccoons from burrowing underneath your enclosure.
Doing this will ensure that your outdoor animals will have a safe place to stay when you are not watching them. However, there are other steps you can take to keep raccoons out of your yard in the first place. Read on to learn more!
How to Keep Raccoons Away From Outdoor Animals
There are some things that you can do in addition to having a raccoon-proof enclosure for your small outdoor animals that will keep them safe. These include having secure fencing around your yard, keeping your yard clean, and using raccoon repellent techniques.
Put up a Good Fence
Having a good fence is crucial when it comes to keeping raccoons out of your yard. You’ll want this fence to be difficult for a raccoon to scramble up; decorative fences and those with grooves are not your best bet.
It’s important to check your fence regularly for cracks and other structural problems. You’ll also want to put grating underneath the perimeter of your fence. This will help prevent raccoons from digging beneath your fence.
Keep Your Yard Clean
Keeping your yard clean is another way that you can deter raccoons if you have small and potentially vulnerable outdoor pets. This will make the space less attractive to raccoons. Consider placing bungee cords on your garbage lids to keep them secure, and be sure to pick up any fallen fruit.
Use Raccoon Repellent Techniques
There are several ways to repel raccoons from your yard. You can use commercial repellents, but they can be costly, inefficient, and can end up hurting animals other than raccoons. Instead, try something small first such as sounds and noises that scare raccoons. You can use fake owls or scarecrows, scents, and plants that repel raccoons.
Physical deterrents such as a motion-activated sprinkler can do wonders at repelling raccoons. The Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer gets great reviews and can be set to activate only at night when raccoons are most active.
That’s a Wrap!
That’s 10 animals that raccoons eat, and why they eat them. To recap:
Raccoons are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. In addition to this, raccoons have one of the widest palates in the animal kingdom. I mean, they eat garbage, right? So, it’s a safe bet they’ll eat almost anything else!
Raccoons may have a wide palate, but they are opportunistic. Just because a duck is floating by on a pond doesn’t mean they’ll go after it. They’re going to go for easy, simple, nutrient-dense foods that will give them the most bang for their buck.
Animals such as clams, snails, rodents, birds, eggs, crayfish, and reptiles are all possible meals to a raccoon, depending on the situation. Additionally, small outdoor pets can be vulnerable to raccoons, especially if their enclosures are not secure.
If you have small outdoor animals and pets, it’s imperative to make the enclosure secure from both above and below, as raccoons are crafty little creatures! If your raccoon problem is getting hard to handle, try using scare tactics, scents, and physical deterrents to keep them away.
Baldwin, R. A. (2014, July). Raccoons. University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources. Retrieved June 22, 2021, from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74116.html
Goldman, E. A., & Jackson, H. H.T. (1950). Raccoons of North and middle America (Vol. no. 60). Washington: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. https://archive.org/details/raccoonsofnorthm60gold/page/8/mode/2up
Raccoon. (n.d.). Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved June 22, 2021, from https://www.in.gov/dnr/fish-and-wildlife/wildlife-resources/animals/raccoon/
Semel, B., & Nicolaus, L. K. (1992). Estrogen‐based aversion to eggs among free‐ranging raccoons. Ecological applications, 2(4), 439-449.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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