As expert wildlife rehabilitators and naturalists, one of the most common questions we get asked is “what do raccoons eat?” While these mischievous and clever mammals are famous for raiding trash cans and residential areas in search of food, their natural diet is quite varied and complex. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ideal dietary needs of raccoons, both in the wild and in captive or rehabilitative settings.

Natural Raccoon Diet

In their native habitats across North and Central America, raccoons are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they will eat a wide variety of plant and animal matter based on seasonal availability. Their diet typically consists of:

Raccoon dog


A major component of a wild raccoon’s diet is invertebrates like insects, worms, slugs, and crayfish. Raccoons will use their dexterous paws to overturn logs, rocks, and leaf litter to find these protein-rich food sources.


Raccoons are also skilled predators, hunting small vertebrates like frogs, fish, bird eggs, mice, and even rabbits when the opportunity arises. Their ability to climb trees and swim allows them to access a diverse array of prey.

Plant Matter

Raccoons rely heavily on fruits, nuts, berries, and other vegetation throughout the year. Wild raccoons have been known to feast on corn, acorns, cherries, grapes, and many other wild and cultivated plant foods seasonally.

Raccoons as Scavengers

Raccoon dog

One of the reasons raccoons have adapted so well to urban and suburban environments is their propensity for scavenging and raiding human sources of food. Trash cans, pet food bowls, and even unsecured pantries and refrigerators are all potential feeding grounds for these clever creatures.

While certainly not an ideal diet, raccoons in these settings will eat just about anything they can get their paws on – from leftover pizza crusts to sugary cereals to spoiled meats. This constant access to calorie-dense and often nutritionally poor foods can lead to obesity and other health issues in urban raccoon populations.

Feeding Raccoons in Captivity

For wildlife rehabilitators caring for orphaned, injured, or sick raccoons, it’s crucial to provide a complete and balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs. An appropriate captive raccoon diet should consist of:

High-Quality Protein

Lean meats like chicken, turkey, or lean ground meat should make up around 30-40% of a captive raccoon’s diet to provide ample protein for growth and healing.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh produce like berries, melons, greens, squash, and sweet potatoes provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Around 30% of the diet.

Raccoon dogs

Grains and Starches

Whole grains, cereals, pasta, and bread can make up around 15% of the diet to provide carbohydrates and energy.

Supplemental Calcium and Vitamins

To ensure proper bone development and overall health, a calcium and vitamin supplement is recommended.

Fresh Water

Of course, fresh, clean drinking water should be available at all times.

Feeding schedules and portion sizes vary based on the raccoon’s age, weight, and health status, so it’s always best to consult an experienced wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian.

Raccoon dog

The Importance of a Balanced Diet

Whether in the wild or in captivity, a balanced and appropriate diet is crucial for raccoon health and well-being. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to issues like:

  • Metabolic bone disease from lack of calcium
  • Obesity and related complications from too many empty calories
  • Failure to thrive in young raccoons without proper protein and nutrients

By understanding a raccoon’s natural dietary needs and providing high-quality, varied foods, we can help ensure these intelligent and resilient urban wildlife ambassadors stay healthy and thrive.

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