What Do Raccoons Eat in the Winter?

Written by: Akeem Eletu
Last updated on:

Raccoons are common in North America. They are opportunistic scavengers that will make a meal out of almost anything.

Since it is common to find them searching for food during the warmer months, it is not out of place to ask, “What do raccoons eat in winter?”

Check out this article to understand what raccoons eat and how they cope with finding food during the cold months of winter.

What Do Raccoons Eat in Winter?

Raccoons eat insects, birds, eggs, and a long list of nuts that grow in the wild during the entire year. 

However, in winter, they rarely hunt for food in the cold and usually eat whatever they can find near their dens.

Raccoons also eat frogs, fishes, clams, rodents, vegetables, and sometimes carrion during the winter. These masked omnivores hunt less during winter because they store fat in their bodies which helps them survive winter. 

However, here are some things that raccoons eat during the winter:

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Nuts

During winter, raccoons are usually less active. They spend most of their time in their dens, but they deplete their fat reserves. So, raccoons usually look for nuts and what else they can find on warmer days.

One of the nuts that raccoons relish during winter is the oak nut or acorn.  This nut usually has a seed or two and is a food source for rodents, rats, and birds in the wild. 

Acorn is a very high-fat content nut, with lots of carbohydrates and protein. Remember that the raccoons survive during the winter by depleting their stored fat. So acorns are one of the nuts they eat to replenish the depleted fats. 

The acorn helps wild raccoons survive the winter. If you find raccoons out in the winter looking for food, you can throw them some nuts to help them. But never get too close to them.

Also, do not feed them macadamia nuts because they are toxic for raccoons.

Other nuts that wild raccoons will feed on include beechnuts and hazelnuts.

Corn

Raccoons usually break into corn farms during the early months of winter to eat corn. Since corn only requires warmth and light, many farmers plant corn in the early winter months while there is still some warmth.

Corn is an excellent source of fatty acids for raccoons. Some of these fatty acids are linoleic and linolenic acids, which aid the raccoon’s immune system. These fatty acids also aid the development of healthy skin and a firm coat.

In addition, corn contains protein for muscle and tissue development.

Apart from the fat content, corn is also a great carbohydrate. The highly digestible carbohydrate supplies energy to the raccoons to also help them survive the winter.

Often, these farmers plant varieties that grow and mature in 55-70 days. Raccoons usually go for these crops before the winter gets too cold for them to go foraging. 

You can also offer some corn seeds to raccoons when you see them looking for food during winter. 

However, if you want to feed them some raw sweet corn, wash them well before offering them to your pet, especially if you are unsure about how organic the source is. You do not want to introduce toxic chemicals to the animal’s system.

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Smaller Critters

Small critters like frogs, rodents, rats, and other easy-catch prey are not off the raccoon’s menu during winter. It is common to find a raccoon tearing up the flesh of an unlucky prey. 

Meat improves the immune system of raccoons and many other omnivorous animals.

Raw meat and bones have a balanced amount of fatty acids that reduce inflammatory conditions and infections.

Raw meat and bones also help the raccoon build a finer coat and improve its skin condition. Apart from that, the bones are an essential source of calcium which will help the raccoon grow healthier and stronger bones.

You can always throw some extra meat to raccoons you find searching for food during the winter. 

Raccoons also eat fish. During the winter, they frequent ponds and other places. Fish is a good source of protein for raccoons and contains many other nutrients. 

It is rich in omega-3 acids, calcium, phosphorus and loads of vitamins and minerals.

If you have an outdoor pond, perhaps, it would be best to set up some repellent devices to protect your fish.

Do Raccoons Eat All Winter Long?

No, raccoons do not eat all winter long. They eat as much as possible during the warmer winter days, storing as much fat as possible to survive the winter. 

They will occasionally come out to hunt and check out trash cans and other places where they usually find food to eat. After finding something to eat, they will retreat to their dens to sleep.

Although they do not hibernate like bears during the winter, they retreat into holes in trees, the ground, and the spaces between logs. 

Usually, these dens are abandoned homes of other animals, but sometimes, the raccoons make these dens to shelter themselves from the winter.

Bottom Line

Raccoons survive on the stores of fats in their bodies during winter. Before winter, they eat as much as they can and retreat to a hibernation-like state during winter. 

But they will occasionally come out to find food such as acorns, hazelnuts, and a list of smaller critters to replenish their depleted fat stores.

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