Raccoon eating fruits and vegetables under a car.

What Do Raccoons Eat? 

Finding raccoons in your backyard is common, and it’s natural to wonder what these curious animals are eating. They are well-known opportunists, taking advantage of both the natural bounty and processed delights that come their way. 

Raccoon diets span a wide range from nuts to berries, insects to amphibians – even small mammals aren’t safe. In cities or other human settlements, they munch on pet food left outside, raid garbage cans for scraps, and feast upon compost piles.

While they may look cute and cuddly, raccoons can cause damage when they enter homes or yards looking for food. So if you see a raccoon in your backyard, it’s best not to leave out any food sources that could attract them. It’s essential to understand what does a raccoon eat so that you can keep yourself and your property safe.

Key Pest Points:

• Wild raccoons typically feed on seafood, berries, nuts, and slugs.

• Raccoons living in cities forage for leftovers in trash cans and bird feeders.

• For baby raccoons, mother’s milk is the main diet until they are old enough to eat solid food.

• Pet raccoons should be given an omnivore-based product or dry dog kibble as a base diet, supplemented with poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, and occasionally mice.

What do raccoons eat in the wild?

Raccoons are adaptable and found in nearly every state throughout the United States. With an average lifespan of 2-3 years, they prefer woodlands and forests but will make do with any hollowed-out spot – especially if it’s close to a body of water.

At night, raccoons hunt for food near the edge of rivers, ponds, or lakes. Their primary diet consists of seafood such as frogs, snails, fish, and even turtles or snakes, if available. They have a balanced diet that includes wild herbs, fruits, nuts, and slugs.

Raccoons are not skilled hunters but may try to catch birds or other small creatures if other raccoon food is scarce. Not only do they use their paws to help themselves find food, but also their incredible sense of smell and sight.


Raccoons have earned their scientific name – Procyon lotor, which translates to “dog-like washer” in Latin – for their peculiar habit of ‘washing’ food in the water. This habit has not been observed in the wild, only in captivity.

Diet of Urban Raccoons 

It’s incredible how well raccoons have adapted to living amongst humans. You can find and identify their nests in attics and urban parks, and they survive on food such as pet food, bird seed, garbage, fallen fruit from trees, and even roadkill. 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a research study to understand how these animals thrive in such urban environments. Unsurprisingly, the average urban raccoon typically weighs more than a wild raccoon. This means urban raccoons have much easier access to food sources than their wild counterparts.

Raccoons have perfected the art of adaptation in an urban environment, becoming masterful scavengers. From trash cans to bird seed and pet food, these resourceful critters will feast on any undamaged snack, even taking sips from fountains or water bowls.

Now that we understand the different dietary practices of wild and urban raccoons let’s look at what they consume during both summer and winter.

Raccoons’ Food in SummerRaccoons’ Food in Winter
When food is scarce, it’s common to spot raccoons scavenging in towns and cities. These critters will rummage through trash cans and the occasional garage, willing to try anything they can find during this period.When food is scarce, it’s common to spot raccoons scavenging in towns and cities. These critters will rummage through trash cans and the occasional garage, willing to try anything they can find during this period.

Diet of a Baby Raccoon

When first born, raccoon kits can take three weeks to open their eyes and make any sound. It will consume only its mother’s milk until it is old enough to leave it’s home. The mother raccoon must feed her young approximately five times a day. In addition to caring for their young, mothers spend much of their time looking for food.

Once they can eat solid food, baby raccoons have quite an appetite. They are not picky with their diet and will willingly eat almost anything put in front of them. However, for optimum nutrition and growth, they should primarily feed on fresh vegetables, fruit, and animal proteins provided by their parents through hunting.

Three raccoons eating watermelon on the ground.

Diet of Pet Raccoons

Taking care of a pet raccoon can be challenging, and owners should be mindful of the variety of foods they feed their pests to keep them healthy and happy. 

Unlike wild raccoons, pets cannot search for food all the time, and thus, their diet must be supplemented with appropriate foods.

  • A pet raccoon’s diet should include an omnivore-based product or dry dog kibble. 
  • Owners can also offer poultry, fish, eggs, fresh vegetables, fruits (in minimal amounts), and live prey such as mice. 
  • Nuts, fruits, and seeds should only be used as treats due to their high-fat and sugar content. 

Pet raccoons can enjoy life to the fullest with a healthy diet and plenty of exercises. With this extra love and care, they will remain happy, healthy, and endlessly active for many years. Providing your pet raccoon with these critical components can extend their lives to 20 years – an epic 17-18 more than wild coonies.

Prohibited Foods for Raccoons

Raccoons may be omnivores, but a few things should not be part of their diet. 

  • Raccoons should avoid coffee, cocoa, and sugary treats, as these can harm their health. 
  • Nuts, onions, chocolate, and macadamia nuts are toxic to these animals. 
  • Garlic and bread can cause digestive problems even though they are not poisonous. 

Regarding a raccoon’s diet, one must remember that just because something is edible doesn’t necessarily mean it should be consumed. Providing nutritious and balanced meals is vital to ensure these creatures have the best possible quality of life.

How To Prevent Raccoons from Becoming Nuisances

The best way to prevent raccoons from becoming a nuisance is by not providing them with food sources. Here are a few tips to help minimize problems with raccoons:

Secure garbage cans tightly and regularly empty them: Raccoons are attracted to the food found in garbage cans and may become aggressive if they can’t access it.

Store pet food indoors: Pet food should not be left out at night. Raccoons may try to access it and cause damage in the process.

Trim tree branches and keep yards free of debris: Raccoons love to climb trees and forage through debris, so trimming branches near your home can help prevent them from accessing the roof or attic.

Install motion-activated lights and secure outdoor structures: Raccoons are nocturnal creatures and will avoid bright lights. Installing motion-activated lights around the perimeter of your home can be an effective deterrent. Securing outdoor structures like sheds and garages can also help prevent raccoon access.

Clean up any spilled bird seed, nuts, or fruits: Raccoons are attracted to these items, so cleaning up any spilled food can help prevent them from coming near your home.

Do not feed wild animals on your property: Not only is it dangerous to feed wild animals, but it can also attract unwanted guests like raccoons.

Learn how to identify raccoon sounds: Knowing the different vocalizations of raccoons can help identify potential visitors on your property.

Use scent deterrents: Raccoons are sensitive to smell, so scented deterrents like mothballs or cayenne pepper can help keep them away.

Preventive measures around your home can help protect it from raccoons and other wild pests. If you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of having one visit, call on wildlife control services to remove them quickly, safely, and with respect for their wellbeing.


Do Raccoons Really Like Garbage or Dirty Food?

Raccoons may have a messy reputation, but they don’t necessarily like garbage. What we humans consider trash, these animals view as perfectly edible – even delicious. Regarding their meals, raccoons are picky, so they are drawn to easily accessible food sources, such as bird feeders, pet dishes, etc.

Should You Feed Raccoons in Your Yard?

Raccoons may seem cute and cuddly, but they are smart enough to learn how to find their way around your property looking for a free meal. Feeding them in your yard can lead to an influx of visitors seeking food from humans – which could be troublesome! Instead of providing meals for the masked bandits, it is best to refrain from encouraging raccoons so they don’t become too comfortable on our property.

With their cunning intelligence and adorable faces, raccoons can be tempting to feed – but resisting is important. Feeding them encourages aggression towards humans, so if a wild raccoon bites you, seek medical attention immediately. 

If they make their way onto your property or home, contact local wildlife control services for safe removal – the best place for these wild creatures is in the great outdoors.


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