If you’ve ever been curious about whether raccoons eat worms or maybe you have a pet raccoon, this article is for you.
In short, yes, the mischievous little raccoon does eat worms, but their appetite for worms depends on a few things like the habitat where raccoons live and the available source of food.
We’ll discuss these factors in more detail, using scientific evidence!
Why would a raccoon choose our slimy worm friends as their meal of choice?
Let’s get straight into raccoon diets and explore evidence-based reasons why raccoons are known to eat earthworms (and other species).
- Raccoons eat worms as they’re a good source of protein, iron, and amino acids.
- Worms are an easy target for raccoons due to their small size, slow movement and the fact they are nocturnal and active at the same time as the raccoon.
- Raccoons will also eat worms if other foods that raccoons eat are not abundant.
- Raccoons also consume a variety of other insects and worm-like species, including caterpillars (like inchworms, armyworms, tomato hornworms, slugs, snails, larvae (like mealworms or superworms), spiders, and otherbugs.
Why do Raccoons Eat Worms?
Raccoons eat worms because worms provide an abundant source of protein, iron, and amino acids.
Being omnivores, raccoons will eat almost anything and look for easy prey to catch.
Worms fit this criteria as they are small and slow-moving, making them an easy target for raccoons.
Raccoons prefer food that requires less effort to catch, and since worms don’t have legs, they’re slow-moving and become easy prey.
They will eat worms and use their sharp claws to dig them out of the ground, especially if other food sources are not available.
Do Raccoons Eat Worms in the Wild?
Yes, raccoons eat worms in the wild.
As we now know, raccoons are omnivores, and wild raccoons can also include worms as part of their diet, since they are available to raccoons and provide nutritional benefits.
Here are some reasons why raccoons in the wild eat worms:
- Nutritional Value: Worms are a good source of protein, iron, and amino acids. Being omnivorous, raccoons eat many different kinds of foods, both animals and plant-based (even out of garbage cans!); worms fit this criteria.
- Easy Prey: Worms are small animals and very slow-moving, making them an easy target for raccoons. Raccoons prefer food that requires less effort to catch, making worms an ideal choice.
- Abundance: Raccoons are attracted to suburban and urban areas with abundant worm populations. They have the skill to reach into the ground and pull out worms without much effort.
- Raccoons are nocturnal: …and so are worms, since they avoid sunlight to survive! This means worms are an essential part of the diet of the raccoon and they are up and about at the same times.
Raccoons Dietary and Nutritional Needs: Where Worms Fit in
To ensure a balanced and nutritious diet for raccoons, worms play an important role as a source of protein and other essential nutrients.
Raccoons are opportunistic and omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals they can find.
Their varied diet consists of and includes:
- grains like buckwheat
- small mammals like rodents (mouse or squirrel)
- bird eggs and even small birds
- fish and other aquatic animals (like frog or crayfish)
- insects and worms
- dead animals
Raccoons use their paw to catch many species of worms such as grubs and earthworms.
Another interesting study showed that the more urbanized the world is becoming, raccoons are also becoming more overweight and hyperglycemic as their access to our food and garbage increases. (2)
Table of Foods a Raccoon Eats
|Small mammals like rodents (mouse or squirrel)||Nuts|
|Bird eggs and even small birds||Berries|
|Fish and other aquatic animals (like frog or crayfish)||Fruits|
|Insects and worms (including earthworms)||Corn|
|Dead animals||Grains like buckwheat|
|Snails||Grass and Leaves|
What other Insects do Raccoons Eat?
Raccoons also enjoy feasting on other insects like beetles and spiders for added protein in their diet. These insects provide a valuable source of nutrients and contribute to the raccoon’s overall health.
Here are some other insects that raccoons commonly consume:
- Caterpillars: Caterpillars are often confused with worms, because their species are given names like inchworms, tomato hornworms and cabbage worms, but these caterpillars are foods raccoons like too.
- Larvae: Raccoons find larvae, such as mealworms, superworms and grub worms, easy to eat as they do not put up much resistance.
- Other Bugs and Spiders: Although spiders do not have the same soft texture as other bugs, they are still a good source of nutrition for raccoons.
These insect varieties offer different textures and flavors that add variety to the raccoon’s diet.
By including these insects in their meals, raccoons can ensure they are getting all the necessary nutrients they need to thrive in their habitat and environment.
Do Worms Make Good Pet Food For a Raccoon?
Raccoons can eat a variety of foods, so yes worms and insects make a good option for a balanced raccoon diet. Heck, raccoons in urban areas living near trash cans not only survive, but thrive.
In fact, easy to access garbage is a sure-fire way of attracting raccoons to your property.
You’ve probably gathered by now that raccoons aren’t too fussy and eat many kinds of foods and can adapt to different environments as they have in the wild.
You can supplement their diet with human food too (humans eat worms too by the way…!) and a balanced diet is important for raccoons, just like it is for us. But they do enjoy eating worms.
Try putting mealworms in bird feeders for a tasty treat which is delicious to raccoons in your garden (but make sure they don’t catch and eat birds that want some mealworms too!).
You can feed raccoons almost anything…almost..
What Shouldn’t You Feed Your Raccoon
While they’ll eat almost anything, there are certain foods you shouldn’t feed your pet raccoon including:
If raccoons consume these foods, there are potential health issues caused by them.
Summary and Final Thoughts
Raccoons will try to eat almost anything to survive and yes, they eat a diet that includes worms for many good reasons we discussed above.
Raccoons thrive in a variety of habitats and live in residential areas as well as suburban areas. Raccoons will even build a nest for their baby raccoons almost anywhere.
We don’t recommend treating them as pests and calling wildlife removal, but that’s just our thoughts on many animals just trying to survive in nature. It’s best to take steps not to attract a raccoon in the first place.
Raccoons typically are attracted to easy food like accessible trash cans and small prey. You can keep them away by keeping your trash cans well-sealed and composting your food waste in a garage instead.
If Raccoons can be found in your garden feasting on earthworms, then leave them to it. Many other animals do it too and if they’re not bothering you, just enjoy the natural hunting show on display.
On the flip-side, do you want to know what worms eat? We’ve written about this too.
(1) THE FOOD AND BREEDING HABITS OF THE RACCOON W. J. HAMILTON, JR. Department of Zoology, Cornell University – (source)
(2) Schulte-Hostedde AI, Mazal Z, Jardine CM, Gagnon J. Enhanced access to anthropogenic food waste is related to hyperglycemia in raccoons (Procyon lotor). Conserv Physiol. 2018 Jun 13;6(1):coy026. doi: 10.1093/conphys/coy026. PMID: 29992022; PMCID: PMC6025200.