As a wildlife expert, one of the most common questions I get asked is “Do raccoons eat mice?” The short answer is yes, raccoons are opportunistic omnivores that will readily eat mice and other small rodents when the opportunity arises. However, there is a lot more fascinating information to unpack when it comes to the dietary habits of these clever mammals.

What is a Raccoon’s Natural Diet?

In the wild, raccoons have a very diverse diet consisting of both plant and animal matter. Some of their preferred foods include fruits, nuts, seeds, insects, fish, eggs, and small mammals like mice. However, their diet can vary substantially based on the season and what food sources are available in their environment.

For example, in spring and early summer raccoons tend to eat more insects, worms, frog eggs and plant matter like berries and acorns. In late summer and fall, they switch to eating more fruits, nuts and corn from agricultural areas. During winter when other foods are scarce, raccoons rely more heavily on hunting small mammals, raiding bird feeders and scavenging whatever they can find.

Raccoon dog

So while mice and other rodents aren’t necessarily a raccoon’s preferred food source in seasons when other options are plentiful, they become an important part of the diet when high-calorie foods are limited. Rodents provide much-needed protein and fat to help raccoons survive the lean winter months.

How Do Raccoons Hunt Mice?

Raccoons are very intelligent and crafty hunters when it comes to catching mice and other small prey. They have extremely dexterous front paws that allow them to pluck mice out of small crevices and tunnels. Their human-like hands combined with a good sense of hearing to detect motion makes them formidable mouse hunters.

Raccoon dog

Raccoons will also team up in pairs or family groups to hunt mice cooperatively. Some raccoons will create distractions while others are poised to pounce on mice that bolt from their hiding spots. Their famous “dousing” behavior of dunking food items in water is used to soften mice and make them easier to consume.

In urban and suburban areas, raccoons have been known to raid mouse traps, pet food containers and even tear into attic spaces and wall cavities to get at mice taking shelter inside homes. While this behavior can be a nuisance for homeowners, it just goes to show the persistent and clever nature of raccoons when seeking out a rodent food source.

Other Small Mammals Eaten by Raccoons

In addition to mice, raccoons will also eat other small rodents like voles, shrews and young rats when available. Young rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks may also fall victim to a hungry raccoon’s diet, especially in early spring when these mammal babies are defenseless.

Some larger predatory birds like herons have also been documented bringing raccoons garter snakes, frogs and even small turtles back to the raccoon’s den to feed nursing mothers and their offspring, showing the diverse array of protein sources raccoons can survive on.

Raccoon dog

While the idea of raccoons hunting mice and other rodents may seem unsettling to some people, it is important to remember that raccoons are just trying to survive and feed themselves and their young in the most efficient way possible based on the food sources present in their environment. Controlling rodent populations is just one of many important roles raccoons play in the ecosystem.

If you live in an area with a healthy raccoon population, chances are good that these resourceful mammals are doing you a great service by helping to control the mice and other rodent pests around your home. So the next time you hear scurrying in your attic, it may just be a raccoon earning its keep as one of nature’s most talented mousers!

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