What Raccoons Eat

By Zach Lazzari

Raccoons have a diverse diet that helps them adapt in a variety of different environments. They are opportunistic omnivores, eating everything from plants to domestic garbage. Wild raccoons spend most of their time foraging for food, while captive raccoons rely on human feeding cycles. Raccoons are not common pets; captives are most often found in zoos and rescue environments.

Forage Diet

Wild raccoons eat insects, nuts and berries, crayfish, fish, bird eggs, reptiles, fruit and plants. They will also scavenge and eat dead animal carcasses ranging from rodents to big game. Raccoons are capable of digesting most edible food items, much like bears and humans. They will eat food as it becomes available throughout the year. This means plants and insects in the spring and summer, fish and crayfish when they are vulnerable, and nuts and berries when they are prevalent in the summer. The raccoon stores summer fat to assist with low quantities of food during the winter. They subsist primarily on leaves and grasses during the winter months.

Human-Influenced Diet

Wild raccoon diets are often influenced by humans and their trash. They capitalize on their ability to move stealthily at night, utilizing storm drains and ditches for travel in urban and rural environments. In urban and suburban environments, household scraps and restaurant trash bins provide an easy source of calories. Raccoons have small front paws, much like humans', with "fingers capable of opening trash can lids, untying knots and operating latches. They also will knock over trash cans to spill the contents.

Keep your trash in a secure area if raccoons are a nuisance in your neighborhood. Hiding your edible trash encourages them to pursue a wild and natural diet.

Diet in Captivity

Captive raccoons are fed a diet that imitates their diet in the wild. Fish and crayfish are common in the captive diet. Chicken, fruits and vegetables are also normal food for captive animals. The amount of food given is based on the size of the raccoon -- roughly 7 percent of body weight daily, spread out over several meals to keep the raccoon entertained and satisfied.

Raccoons as Pets

Raccoons are kept as pets by some people, but they are not suited to a household environment. They are naturally destructive and sometimes violent. They have sharp nails and pose a risk to human safety. In many states, keeping them as pets is illegal. Check your state laws before considering a raccoon as a pet.