Raccoons are common cohabitors with humans all across North America. These large and furry critters are definitely charming, at least when they are at rest, thanks to their dusky gray fur, iconic black mask, and ringed, puffy tail.
And those little paws that are so much like hands in their dexterity!
Precious, but these mobile mammalian miscreants have something of an unsavory reputation thanks to their propensity for breaking into trash, sheds, and even homes in search of food, even stealing it right out the bowls of our pets. The nerve of these procyons!
Unlike most other mammalian pests raccoons represent something of a challenge when it comes time to get rid of them, or relocate them.
This is due to their high intelligence, dexterity, and persistence which put most other animals to shame.
You can find hours and hours of video content on YouTube and elsewhere chronicling people’s trials and tribulations attempting to catch or otherwise dispatch these clever adversaries.
But as it turns out raccoons do have one weakness, an Achilles’ heel you might say. They love food, really love it.
Since they are so preoccupied with obtaining choice and delicious fare it is easy to manipulate them into a trap or a spot where they are easy to dispatch by luring them with the right bait. In this article, we will share with you 10 foods that make ideal raccoon bait.
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Know Your Enemy
Before you can set off placing bait for any animal you want to catch, it is beneficial to know a little bit about its behaviors, preferences and food acquisition strategies.
Raccoons are absolutely voracious and vigorous pilferers of any sort of food stuff that they have access to, from the leftovers and kitchen scraps and trash cans to a bowl of dog or kitty litter left out for the family pet. Nothing seems to be safe or beyond interest for these furry thieves!
That is because raccoons are omnivorous, and indeed might be one of the most omnivorous animals on Earth.
This means that they eat a varied and mixed diet, consisting of animal, insect, and plant matter. Worms and insects are favorites as are aquatic items like crayfish.
That being said, raccoons are noted through study as developing strong individual preferences for food, and in social settings, raccoons occupying a given area will strongly gravitate towards foods typical in that area.
Urbanized raccoons will develop a fondness for human food and often pet food. Raccoons living in more remote places will eat a mixed diet of insects, worms, nuts, berries, and other natural fares.
Though they do not take larger live prey often if ever, they will happily scavenge from carcasses or found sources of animal protein.
Curiously, raccoons always show a strong preference for very moist food and even indulge in what is known as “washing” behavior when they have a water source nearby: they dip and rub their food in water before consuming it.
If you notice a strong bias towards wet, moist, and juicy food on our list below, you’ll now know why!
Raccoons are also highly motivated by scent, and that means the more fragrance that is generated the more appetizing and irresistible it will be for the raccoon in question.
This means that foods that are oily, stinky, or otherwise known for potent fragrance will be your best bet much of the time. Class dismissed, let’s get to the list.
The Best Raccoon Baits You Can Use
Believe it or not, quite a few pest control professionals and several raccoon-catching experts will advocate the use of marshmallows for catching raccoons in suburban and urban areas.
First, these raccoons usually take up with sugary, sweet human foods pretty quickly and some folks even postulate the bright white coloring of the marshmallow catches moonlight at night when raccoons are most active, arousing their curiosity since they might mistake it for bird or reptile eggs, one of their most commonly poached food items in the wild.
If you want to try marshmallows for nabbing a raccoon lurking around your property, you should try both the small, button-sized ones and the larger, extra fluffy ones.
The raccoons might show a preference for one or the other, or they might not, but you should not underestimate how many a raccoon could eat in a short time.
You might need a backup bag to keep enticing them, and remember that raccoons are social, so they are likely to be traveling with friends!
It is harder to think of a food it is more intensely, ah, flavored and more pungent than sardines.
These cans of tiny fish are definitely a love it or hate it delicacy among humans, and a surefire way to start a fight on pizza night is to include them on a pie intended for sharing.
Nonetheless, raccoons that are acclimatized to aquatic foodstuffs will find them utterly irresistible.
As mentioned above, raccoons have a preference for moist and highly odorific food and sardines check both of those boxes with big, bold red markers.
Sardines will dry out reasonably quickly when removed from their can, so consider dumping them out into a bowl or small dish that will help keep them moist.
Additionally, the larger the surface area that you can provide for their oil will only increase the loft or throw of the scent, increasing the chances that the raccoon will detect it sooner.
3. Peanut Butter
There hardly seems to be a mammal you cannot catch with peanut butter. Mice and rats love it, dogs love it, and as it turns out raccoons lose their minds for the stuff.
This is because the raccoons have always displayed a strong preference for acorns, walnuts, and other nuts throughout history and they are a staple foodstuff for wild raccoons that have not been exposed to human activity or human trash.
You can easily exploit this baked-in preference for delicious nuts by using peanut butter as bait.
Yes, I know that peanuts aren’t real nuts, but they are not analogs as far as food is concerned and are packed with protein and fat which means raccoons will love them.
Peanut butter always has an advantage as bait because it is cheap, and plentiful and the smell won’t drive you out of your mind. It is also easy to set up in or around a trap in any way that might be desired.
4. Roasted Poultry
Roasted poultry is fine raccoon bait, and smells just as appetizing to them as it does to us.
Contrary to legend, it is a vanishing rarity that a raccoon could ever catch and eat a live bird if it was even to attempt at all, though they are in veteran consumers of both bird and reptile eggs as mentioned above.
That being said, you will not find a raccoon in the land that will turn down a delicious dinner of roasted turkey or chicken.
You can use scraps of meat from your own meal, old leftovers that you were going to throw out anyway or even cold cuts from the deli counter that you heat up and slather with a little broth or gravy.
All you need to remember is that raccoons show a strong preference for wet or moist food, so don’t let it dry out and you’ll ensure that the scent stays on the wind and the raccoons will be drawn in like moths to a flame.
5. Roasted Pork
Similar to the roasted poultry entry above, there is just something about a roasted ham slice that raccoons cannot resist. And who can blame them!
Pork is fatty, salty, and delicious according to most human methods of preparation, and the same characteristics that make pork desirable to us mean it will be desirable to the masked bandits.
You have all sorts of ways to prepare pork and any one of them will do fine for raccoon catching so long as you follow the guidelines.
Scraps of pork pulled from a whole hog that has been barbecued are ideal, as are thick-cut ham steaks, something the raccoon can really sink its teeth into.
But you could use thicker dinner cut pork slices, pork chops, or even thin-sliced deli ham. Just remember to keep it moist one way or the other and it won’t be long before your guests show up.
By now you probably saw the heading for this entry and nodded to yourself: “Yep, that’s good raccoon bait!”.
And you’d be right because tuna is fish, which raccoons typically love, stinky and wet and just the way they like it.
This makes tuna a triple threat for raccoons that works about as well as a mind-control spell. They cannot help themselves!
Tuna has a major advantage for catching raccoons in that typically wild raccoons as well as urbanized ones both enjoy it, so if you are ever in doubt you can head down to the grocery store or even your local corner store and grab a couple of cans.
Just make sure you get tuna that is packaged in oil, not water, if at all possible. Remember, the stinkier the better!
7. Soft Candy
Soft candies of various kinds are another good bait option for raccoons in an urban or suburban environment.
Remember that raccoons are opportunists, and there have been plenty of sweet treats pillaged by these tricky little rascals either sitting in storage, in transit or thrown out in the trash.
That means that raccoons occupying these environments have a serious sweet tooth, a sweet tooth you can exploit.
You should choose candies that are soft and easy to eat not only to make them more palatable but also to ensure that more of their scent gets on the wind.
Assuming the candy will hold up to some extra moisture, it might be a good idea to wet them gently in order to increase their fragrance, and don’t worry about it if they get caught in the rain. Raccoons never mind soggy food!
Raccoons are perennial fruit eaters, of all kinds, and they especially love soft, juicy sweet fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe and pineapple.
That being said they will eat pretty much any kind of fruit, from plums and grapes to berries and apples. So long as the fruit is cut open or the raccoons can smell it they will be drawn to it.
Brightly colored fruit seems to work best but you can use anything you have on hand. Fresh fruit will work as will canned fruit, so you don’t need to be picky because raccoons sure aren’t.
That being said, make sure you keep a close eye on your bait and refresh the fruit when it starts to rot or dissolve away. Fruit more than most bait seems to do best when it is fresher.
9. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is not a food per se but it is a condiment and therefore it is technically a food for the purposes of this list.
Regardless, it is extremely pungent and can be poured on other items to greatly increase the loft of its scent, making it a sort of “amplifier” for other baits.
This can be used with otherwise only modestly-appealing baits like bread or added to high-quality baits like roasted pork or poultry to make a dish that will be calling in raccoons from across the county.
If you are struggling to catch a raccoon with what baits you have on hand, consider adding a little shot of warmed soy sauce to it and pouring some extra on the plate or around the dish where you have placed the bait.
This will always give raccoons extra incentive to investigate the intoxicating aroma.
10. Cat/Dog Food
You should have figured this one out long before you ever thought about actually having to get around to catching the raccoon.
Most people find themselves in this situation because of chronically stolen pet food and increasing numbers of hungry, grasping little hands looking for a handout at night.
Raccoons love pet food, particularly cat and dog kibble as well as the ever-precious wet food.
You don’t need to swim uphill if you are trying to bait a raccoon that has been stealing your pet’s food.
Simply relocate some of the food into the animal trap or killzone and wait for the little mongrel to show up and collect his due.
As always, wet food generally works better but if you have dry food that’s okay, simply put out a little dish of water to go with it because apparently there is nothing raccoons love more than dipping dry pet food in a nearby bowl of water.
Raccoons are the half-glutton, half-gourmand of the animal world, and there is a wide variety of baits that will work wonderfully when it comes time to lure them into a trap or an ambush.
Read over the suggested baits we have furnished you with on this list and assess them against the environment your raccoons are in. I have no doubt that you’ll have a handful that will work wonderfully.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.