raccoon eating habits

What Do Raccoons Eat? Surprising Facts About These Cute Critters & Their Eating Habits

Raccoons are adorable, nocturnal animals that are found in many rural and urban areas in the United States as well as Central America, Japan, and Europe. They can grow to the size of a small dog and usually steer clear of humans. While they are said to be fond of trash, raccoons eat quite a wide spread of foods in the wild.

what do raccoons eat

A Raccoon’s Natural Diet

Are Raccoons Vegan?

Raccoons share a common ancestry with bears and just like them, raccoons are true omnivores who eat quite a lot of different foods. They will eat almost anything that is available to them and can successfully use their paws to dig and pluck food from the smallest of hiding places.

Do Raccoons Eat Trash?

Raccoons are famously known as “trash pandas” as they seem to love to get their hands on garbage. The truth is, they really only do it out of necessity for survival. As the raccoons’ natural habitats continually get destroyed for farmland and shopping malls, raccoons turn to scavenge in trash cans, gardens, and anywhere else to find food. Sadly, they eat what they can find which doesn’t typically offer the nutrition that they need. With all that though, they are otherwise fairly clean animals. They actually have the habit of “washing” their food or hands in water.

What Do Raccoons Eat In Summer?

When resources are abundant, like during the warmer months, raccoons eat a fairy well-rounded diet. They eat a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as animal protein. Raccoons are also nocturnal, so most hunt for food at night. 

Many raccoons live near rivers and other bodies of water and those that do also eat amphibians, fish, and even bird eggs. Most foods found in the wild are safe for raccoons to eat and only a few foods are toxic to them.

What Do Raccoons Eat In Winter?

When food is more scarce this is usually when desperate raccoons can be found wandering towns looking in trash cans and garages. Again, as most things are safe for them to eat, they will eat pretty much anything they can find.

what do raccoons eat

What Do Baby Raccoons Eat?

When raccoons are born they are blind and mute for the first three weeks. During this period they solely consumer their mother’s milk until it is old enough to leave the nest. Mother raccoons feed their young every four hours, so about 5 times per day. The mothers spend the majority of their time in the nest, caring for their young or out looking for food. 

Once they can eat solid food, baby raccoons are also not very picky with their diets. They will eat almost anything in front of them – and they can eat quite a lot. They thrive off of fresh vegetables, fruit, and animal proteins that their parents hunt for them.

When Can Baby Raccoons Feed Themselves?

Raccoons, like many mammals, make amazing parents. They care for their young quite carefully and adult females only leave the nest to forage for food for their young. The babies are able to leave the nest after 12 weeks and learn how to forage for food from their mothers. After about nine months, baby raccoons are completely independent of their mothers and can take care of themselves.

what do raccoons eat

Is It Safe To Feed Wild Raccoons?

Most foods, including human food, are safe for raccoons to eat. However, they should not have onions, garlic, or chocolate. Raccoons can sometimes be found during the winter months looking for human scraps and garbage to stay alive. Unfortunately, this doesn’t offer the nutrition they need and they also become too dependent on food from humans to survive. This causes them to lose their naturally scavenging skills.

So, while it is safe for the raccoons to eat human foods, it is definitely best not to feed them. By feeding the raccoons they get encouraged to stick around and stay in the neighborhood. Furthermore, they are very opportunistic that are likely to set up camp near the regular food source and they may try making a home in your home. This could lead to extensive property damage including ripping up ductwork and insulation as well as chewing through electrical wires. It is best for both humans and raccoons to refrain from feeding them and also keep your garbage secure so they cannot break into it.

Is It Safe To Have A Pet Raccoon?

You don’t often see raccoons as pets and it is for good reason. Not only are they extremely high maintenance and quite unpredictable, but it is ethically questionable to own a wild animal as a pet. As mentioned, raccoons can definitely damage your home and belongings during their daily, natural antics and they can be very hard to tame. They do not do well in cages or even small rooms as they need space to roam, climb, and explore to truly be happy. 

Ethically, it is best to let raccoons live in their natural habitat, in the wild. Humans cannot provide the proper diet or environment for raccoons. While wild raccoons can live up to 20 years they typically only live a few years in captivity. You must consider what is best for the animal, over the fact that you personally would like a raccoon as a pet. If you enjoy spending time around wild animals, look into volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center instead.

what do raccoons eat

Safely Solving Raccoon Disputes

There are various ways raccoons could show up in your life. As mentioned, they can be seen rummaging through garbage, raiding gardens, and digging up lawns. They also can dispute ponds, denning in chimneys, or nesting in attics. If you come across raccoons in or near your home there are a couple of ways to humanely rectify the problem. 

One way to deter raccoons to come near your home is to use visual aids. This could be flashing lights in areas where you would like to evict raccoons such as attics or chimneys. Motion detector lights can be particularly helpful to keep raccoons away or to safely encourage them to relocate. 

Audio is another powerful tool to use. Portable radios can be helpful to deter raccoons away from areas of your home or yard. Additionally, scent or taste cues can be used. Like most mammals, raccoons do not like spicy sprays or pastes and may encourage them to leave the area. You could use a commercial spray that has pepper or oil of mustard in it or could make a homemade cayenne pepper spray. These will not harm the raccoon but will help to keep them at bay.

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