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What Do Raccoons Eat [Year-Round Food Habits]

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Raccoons, scientifically known as Procyon lotor, are members of the Procyonidae family and are primarily found in forested areas near water sources. 

However, they have also successfully adapted to urban environments. 

These highly intelligent mammals have nimble front paws that allow them to manipulate objects and navigate their surroundings effectively. 

One common question people have is, what do raccoons like to eat? 

They are omnivores, meaning they consume a diverse diet comprising both plant and animal matter, which enables them to thrive in various environments.

With their distinctive striped tails and facial masks, raccoons are frequently seen in urban areas scavenging for food, including insects and leftover garbage. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what do raccoons like to eat, how they behave, and what their conservation status is. 

But before we get into their food choices, let’s first take a look at where raccoons typically live.

Habitat of Raccoons

Raccoons are good at living almost anywhere. They do well in cities, suburbs, forests, wetlands, fields, farms, deserts, and by the ocean. 

In cities, they find food in garbage cans and places to live in attics or empty buildings. 

In forests, they make homes in tree holes and eat nuts, fruits, bugs, and small animals. 

Near water, like in wetlands or by rivers, they eat fish and frogs and use the water to stay safe. 

Even in dry places, they survive by finding water provided by people and hunting desert animals

They also like coastal areas for seafood. 

Raccoons are smart, so they can live in different places and find lots of different kinds of food, which helps them survive. 

They don’t just live alongside humans in cities; they also help keep nature in balance all over the world, showing how good they are at adapting and how important they are to the environment.

What do Raccoons Eat All-Year?

raccoon eating

1. Spring

In the spring, raccoons love finding yummy treats as the weather gets warmer. 

They dig in the dirt to find bugs,  worms, and grubs that come out during this time. 

They also enjoy eating juicy berries and cracking open soft nuts.

With their quick hands, they catch buzzing insects, and they’re not afraid to steal eggs from bird nests to get extra protein. 

Springtime is like a buffet for raccoons because there are so many tasty foods to choose from.

2. Summer

In the summertime, raccoons keep eating bugs and small animals. When the sun is out, it brings many delicious treats. 

Raccoons enjoy ripe fruits like juicy cherries and sweet berries. Cornfields become like snack areas with golden corn. 

And in our backyards, there’s a feast with tasty tomatoes, sweet melons, and sometimes even a leftover burger, like how humans eat.

Summer is a time of lots of good food for these smart animals.

3. Autumn

In the fall, raccoons look for nuts, acorns, and seeds to save for winter when there might not be much food. 

They also eat fruits, bugs, and small animals that are still there. 

As the leaves change color and the air gets chilly, raccoons get ready for the colder months. 

This is when there are a lot of acorns, and raccoons work hard to gather them. 

They bury the acorns to make a “fat pantry” that gives them energy during the cold winter. 

They also collect fallen fruits and crunchy veggies for their autumn stash.

4. Winter

In winter, when there’s not a lot of food, raccoons rely on the nuts and seeds they save. They also search for food in cities, like checking trash bins for leftovers

When snow covers everything, finding food becomes tricky. But raccoons don’t give up – they become good at finding things. 

They use their patient paws to find frozen berries, and they’re not choosy – they’ll eat things like carrion (animal remains) and even garbage

Their smart paws can open trash cans, and their keen noses can find hidden bits of food. 

It’s not as easy as their spring days with fresh salads, but their cleverness helps them stay alive.

Having explored their year-round diet, let’s take a closer look at what baby raccoons eat and drink.

What do Baby Raccoons Eat and Drink?

As baby raccoons grow up, their food needs change. 

For the first six weeks of life, they only drink their mother’s milk, getting important nutrients from feedings every four hours, about five times a day.

Between 6 to 12 weeks, they start trying solid foods. 

Baby raccoons become curious about different tastes and textures because their mother cleans them by licking their paws, and showing them the food she eats.

During this time, they eat things like Kitten Milk Replacement (KMR), soft foods like scrambled eggs, cooked oatmeal, applesauce, and mashed fruits and veggies, along with crushed kitten food for extra nutrients.

From 12 weeks on, as they start exploring with their mother, they eat even more different foods. 

They learn to find and eat insects, worms, fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, and small animals like frogs, fish, and eggs.

It’s important not to give baby raccoons cow’s milk or other human milk because it can make them sick and they won’t get the right nutrients. 

If you find a baby raccoon without its mother, it’s important to contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away. 

These experts know how to take care of the baby raccoon and help it get back into the wild when it’s ready.

What is the Reason for Washing Their Food?

Raccoons wash their food for several reasons. 

Firstly, they do it to maintain cleanliness, especially when they forage in places with mud or sand that could stick to their food, aiming to remove any unwanted dirt or debris. 

Additionally, washing helps raccoons explore the taste and texture of their food, enhancing their sensory experience. 

This behavior also stems from their instinctual tendencies, likely linked to their natural habitat where they often search for food near water sources, mimicking their prey-cleaning habits observed in the wild. 

Furthermore, raccoons might employ food washing as a means of communication, leaving behind scent markers to help other raccoons find food or establish territorial boundaries. 

It’s worth noting that not all raccoons exhibit this behavior, and individual preferences and habits vary. 

Raccoons in urban or water-scarce environments may not always have the opportunity to wash their food.

Now that we’ve explored their unique eating habits, let’s delve into the appearance and behavior of raccoons.

The Appearance and Behavior of Raccoons

Raccoons are really interesting animals with special looks and ways of acting., thriving in different environments. 

Let’s take a closer look at how they appear and behave:

1. Appearance:

  • Distinctive Features: You can easily spot raccoons due to their special characteristics. They have a mask-like pattern on their faces, giving them a bandit-like look. Their bodies are covered in thick fur, mostly greyish with hints of brown.
  • Ringed Tails: One of their standout features is their long, bushy tails with alternating dark and light rings. These tails serve various purposes, including balance and communication.
  • Nimble Paws: Raccoons boast dexterous front paws with five toes, resembling human hands. This agility helps them manipulate objects and open different items, displaying their clever resourcefulness.
  • Adaptable Size: Adult raccoons usually weigh between 10 to 30 pounds, and their body length (excluding the tail) ranges from 16 to 28 inches. However, their size can change based on factors like where they live and the availability of food.

Understanding the unique features of raccoons sheds light on their intriguing nature and how they navigate their diverse habitats.

2. Behavior:

  • Nighttime Activity: Raccoons are most active when it’s dark. This behavior helps them stay safe from predators and allows them to explore their surroundings in a quieter environment.
  • Foraging and Varied Diet: They are opportunistic eaters with a diverse diet. They consume a broad range of foods, including fruits, nuts, vegetables, insects, small mammals, and even bird eggs. Their ability to adapt enables them to thrive in different ecosystems.
  • Smart Thinking: Recognized for their high intelligence. They can solve problems, remember solutions, and adjust to changing situations. This cleverness is evident in their knack for opening containers and tackling complex tasks.
  • Communication Skills: Raccoons use a mix of vocal sounds, body language, and various calls like purring, chittering, and growling to communicate. Mother raccoons employ specific calls to interact with their young, creating a unique communication system.
  • Territorial Habits: While not excessively territorial, raccoons may establish home ranges and mark their territories with urine. Though they are generally solitary, raccoons can tolerate the presence of other raccoons in their territories.

Learning about how raccoons look and act gives us important information about how well they can adjust to different places and their part in the environments they live in.

The Hunting Method


Raccoons employ a mix of their natural talents and clever strategies when on the hunt for food.

1. Keen Senses

Raccoons boast sharp senses, excelling in both night vision and a powerful sense of smell.

These capabilities come in handy as they scout for potential prey in different environments, especially during their nighttime adventures.

2. Resourceful Foraging

These animals are savvy foragers, meaning they look for food in various places. 

Using their agile paws, they explore their surroundings, turn over debris, and hunt for insects, small animals, and other tasty treats.

3. Water Exploration

Raccoons showcase impressive swimming skills, often delving into aquatic realms in pursuit of prey like fish, frogs, and crayfish

Their natural proficiency in water broadens their scope for hunting, offering them additional sources of food.

4. Adaptability in Urban Areas

In city settings, raccoons have adjusted their hunting approaches to incorporate scavenging for human-provided sustenance. 

They’re recognized for rummaging through garbage bins and exploring human-made structures to find leftover food and discarded items.

5. Learning from Mother

Young raccoons undergo a crucial learning phase from their mothers. 

Guided by their mother raccoon, the kits acquire essential hunting techniques, including searching for food, capturing prey, and making effective use of their surroundings. 

This learning process plays a crucial role in ensuring the survival and independence of the young raccoons.

Although raccoons are skilled hunters, they can also become prey for other animals. 

Who Consumes Raccoons as a Food Source?

While raccoons are not commonly consumed by humans in most parts of the world, they serve as a food source for various predators in their natural environment:

1. Natural Predators:

  • Large Cats: Mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes are formidable predators known to hunt raccoons, particularly targeting young or vulnerable individuals.
  • Birds of Prey: Eagles, owls, and hawks are efficient hunters, focusing on young raccoons or those active during daylight hours.
  • Snakes: Larger snakes like pythons, boas, and anacondas can overpower and constrict raccoons, especially in tropical regions.
  • Other Raccoons: Although raccoons are mainly solitary, larger individuals may occasionally prey on smaller ones, especially young kits or weakened animals.

2. People Eating Raccoons:

A long time ago, some Native American tribes and early American settlers would eat raccoon meat to have enough food. 

But nowadays, not many people do this because it might not be very safe for health, and there are other kinds of food available.

In some parts of the world, like southern China and Vietnam, some people like eating raccoon meat as a special treat. 

It’s very important to be extra careful about cleanliness and making sure there are no harmful parasites when eating raccoons in these places.

3. Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Watch Out for Germs: Raccoons can have tiny creatures called parasites in them, like roundworms and trichinella. If you want to eat raccoon meat, you have to be super careful when you cook it and make sure to be clean.
  • Follow the Rules: In some places, there are specific rules about hunting and eating raccoons. Before you decide to eat raccoon meat, it’s very important to learn and understand what the local laws and rules are.
  • Doing What’s Right: Eating animals from the wild, like raccoons, can make us think about what’s fair and good. It’s essential to think about whether it’s the right thing to do, meaning if it’s good for the environment and the raccoon population. These are important things to consider before choosing to eat raccoons.

The Conservation Status and Geographic Range

Raccoons don’t have the same safety everywhere, and it depends on where they are and what kind they are:

1. Conservation Status of Raccoons

Raccoons around the world are mostly doing okay, like the regular raccoon, which is called Procyon lotor. 

The big group that watches over nature, called the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), says they are “Least Concern,” which means they’re not in big trouble of disappearing. 

But when we look closer, some raccoons, like the ones in the Bahamas and Guadeloupe, are in danger. 

The IUCN calls them “Endangered” because they face problems like losing their homes, invaders coming in, and other dangers that can make them disappear. 

The rules about taking care of raccoons can be different in each place, with some areas having special laws to help protect them.

It’s like a big puzzle where different things work together to keep raccoons safe in their homes.

2. Geographic Range of Raccoons 

Raccoons showcase remarkable adaptability and cover a broad geographic expanse. 

Their native habitat includes North America, where they are prevalent in Canada, the continental United States, and northern Mexico. 

In Central America, portions of Panama host raccoon populations, while South America sees their presence in specific areas of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. 

Beyond their native range, raccoons have been introduced to new territories, establishing populations in parts of Europe such as Germany and France. 

Additionally, they’ve found their way to Asia, being introduced to Japan and certain regions of China.

Wrapping Up 

In conclusion, raccoons are interesting creatures, but they might cause some trouble. 

If you come across a baby raccoon on its own or if raccoons are causing issues with your garbage, it’s crucial to reach out to experts right away. 

With the right care and food, most baby raccoons can become strong and do well in nature. 

By making sure your garbage is well-protected from these curious animals, you can avoid having raccoon problems on your property.


Are raccoons friendly to humans?

Raccoons are generally wild animals, and their behavior can vary.
While some raccoons may seem comfortable around humans, it’s important to remember that they are not domesticated pets.
Approaching or attempting to befriend wild raccoons can be risky, as they may feel threatened and could act defensively.
It’s best to admire them from a distance and avoid direct contact to ensure everyone’s safety.

Do raccoons eat rats?

Yes, raccoons are opportunistic eaters, and they may include rats in their diet.
Raccoons have a diverse palate and consume a variety of foods, including small mammals like rats, insects, fruits, and even human leftovers.
Their ability to adapt to different environments allows them to exploit various food sources, making them effective hunters and scavengers.

How long do raccoons live?

In the wild, raccoons typically have a lifespan of 2 to 3 years. However, some may live longer, with a few reaching up to 5 to 7 years.
The life expectancy of a raccoon can be influenced by factors such as food availability, environmental conditions, and the presence of predators.
In captivity, such as in wildlife rehabilitation centers, raccoons may live longer under the care of experts.

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