Raccoons are one of the most common North American mammals, found quite literally from coast to coast in every environment imaginable. It is no wonder that so many people have had run-ins with these adorable but often infuriating bandits of the animal kingdom.
Raccoons have many noteworthy characteristics, not the least of which is their appearance.
The black mask, bushy tail and incredibly delicate and dexterous for paws make them endearing to people, especially children, but they’re inquisitiveness, persistence and food-driven nature means they are notorious for breaking into trash cans, rating gardens, pilfering sacks of seed and absconding with pet kibble right out of the bowl.
This behavior may be nothing more than a nuisance for you or it could have you at your wit’s end. In a survival situation, the ravages of a gaze of raccoons could significantly deplete important provisions.
Catching them or otherwise disposing of them will depend on having the right bait. In this article you’ll be provided with 10 surefire raccoon baits that the frustrating and furry creatures won’t be able to resist.
Raccoon Feeding Preferences
Before we get to the list proper it will be helpful to understand what drives raccoon preference for food. It is a fairly fascinating subject unto itself, but delving too far into the details is beyond the scope of this article.
Suffice it to say that there are two major considerations when it comes to baiting raccoons, and both of them revolve around understanding the eccentricities of raccoon behavior and exploiting it against them.
The first is that raccoons overwhelmingly prefer fragrant, moist food above all other potential choices in their habitat. Said another way, the wetter and smellier the better!
Whenever you have a choice of multiple baits, you will rarely go wrong choosing the moisture food with the stronger odor.
Second, raccoons show a surprising amount of preference for food based on what is typically encountered in their home range. This is seen at the individual level as well as the social level, which is more complex than you might think.
Raccoons that dwell near human habitation show strong preference for scraps of human food and other items they would never normally encounter in nature, such as candy.
Raccoons that dwell deep in the woods eat varied diet of small invertebrates and insects along with various kinds of plant matter, fruit and berries.
Raccoons that live along the coasts or near water prefer items they can be easily sourced from the water’s edge, such as crustaceans and dead or trapped fish.
Use this information to inform your choice of bait wherever you happen to live. If you live in a rural setting and are having problems with raccoons around your home you could probably use human food or natural fare with equal success.
Raccoons encountered in a natural environment will probably only be accustomed to natural food, though the opportunists might take a liking to any handouts.
Lastly, raccoons that co-mingle with humans in suburban or urban environments will universally show a strong predilection for human fare.
That’s all you need to know for now, and a thorough understanding of raccoon behavior and food preference is not required for success in catching or eliminating them. Let’s move on to the list.
10 Baits That Will Catch a Raccoon
#1. Chicken / Turkey
Raccoons love all sorts of poultry, including chicken, turkey and duck. You can use whatever poultry you have close at hand for the purpose of baiting a raccoon, and if it is roasted, warm and slather and gravy so much the better.
Some folks erroneously believe that raccoons are predators of avians in the wild, but this is not completely true. It would be highly unlikely that a raccoon would pursue a bird to say nothing of actually catch it, but they are devastators of bird eggs, being commonly encountered robbing bird nests.
As always, anything you can do to increase the fragrance of the poultry will help make it more appetizing to the raccoons. Warming it up, putting out a larger portion or wetting it with some drippings from the pan.
Also, you should not be afraid to use leftovers, as raccoons will happily double up food that you or I would think is unfit to eat.
Ham is another favorite of raccoons, or any kind of cooked pork, really. It certainly ticks all the appropriate boxes for raccoons, as a fragrant, fat and juicy pork chop or ham steak is going to drive them absolutely wild with anticipation.
You can use any sort of ham you might have, even deli sliced cuts for sandwiches, but make sure you warm it up and do what you can to increase the aroma wafting off of it before you put it out.
Interestingly, it seems that many raccoons used to interacting with humans and human settlements show tremendous preference for soft, shredded pork of the kind you would typically get at a barbecue joint.
If you have any leftover pork of any kind, you can use two forks to pull it apart and shred it before adding a little sauce or drippings to make it even more appealing. Try not to let your bait dry out though, as it is less likely to entice the creature.
Tuna is ounce per ounce one of the best raccoon baits around, being oily fish, and plenty stinky in the bargain. This stuff had might as well be catnip, or whatever the equivalent is for raccoons.
A heaping bowl of saucy, smelly tuna will be bringing in the raccoons in no time flat, so make sure you are ready. Try to get tuna packed in oil if you can, as that will provide a vital one-two punch when it comes to fragrance.
It is worth noting that tuna is so versatile as a raccoon bait because wild raccoons near large bodies of water will eat fish that they are able to find and suburban raccoons will commonly encounter tuna in the trash cans that they raid outside of homes.
This makes tuna sort of the “do-it-all” bait no matter where you might be, and it is all the better because it is so common and so cheap.
Sardines are sort of a cousin to tuna when it comes to raccoon bait, with a stronger flavor and a stronger odor to boot.
However, you and your family might feel about sardines as a delicacy or a staple is entirely up to you; all we need to be concerned with is that this is another all-purpose bait that raccoons go wild for, especially ones where already used to a regular diet of fish and other seafood.
Most sardines come packed in oil so you won’t have to worry about that but do take care that these tiny fish fillets don’t dry out while you’re waiting for your dinner guest to appear. A little shot of olive oil or fish oil will reinvigorate them if they do get dry, however.
Your biggest problem with sardines as bait is you’ll need an awful lot of them to keep the raccoon fixed in place and eating for any length of time. A single tin can be scarfed up in an instant with the rest carried home later for a snack!
#5. Fish / Soy Sauce
Pungent, savory and umami Asian sauces take on new life when we are trying to lure raccoons into a trap.
While most of us have our preferred Asian dishes that we like with a little shot of the stuff we can also use the sauce to further entice raccoons to take the bait, or use it to punch up bait foods that don’t have much aroma of their own.
You can think of it as a potion to level up your existing bait, so long as you use it intelligently.
You can pour the fish sauce over the bait, scatter it around the bait site or even set out a little saucer of it to really ratchet up the fragrance.
This stuff also works well when poured sparingly around the general area of your trap site in order to get recalcitrant raccoons on the scent of your primary bait. If you leave a trail of increasing quantity going to your primary bait, they will greedily follow it looking for a big score, and then you’ll have them.
Many wild raccoons eat fruits of various kinds on a daily basis, depending on what they have available and suburban dwelling raccoons will hungrily gorge themselves on what kitchen scraps or leftover portions go out with your trash or into your compost heap.
In keeping with what we learned above, juicier, more fragrant fruit is better, and especially (when they are in season) various melons, including cantaloupe and watermelon, and super sweet, rich tropical fruits like a mangoes, pineapples and guavas will do the trick.
If you have a fruit that features a tough exterior shell or protective skin you’ll probably want to cut it up or at least cut it in half prior to putting it out so that the raccoon has easy access to the soft flesh.
Also, don’t be afraid to use canned fruit if fresh fruit is not available. Place the fruit in such a way that the raccoon can easily see its bright colors and you shouldn’t have any problems getting them to investigate.
Raccoons love sweet treats, and they won’t find anything sweeter, anywhere, than candy. Even raccoons living in the wild who have never been exposed to human foodstuffs before will quickly take a liking to candy as soon as they have a little time to check it out. All you need to know is that raccoons have a major sweet tooth, and crave sugars.
You can use pretty much any kind of candy, but soft candy that is slightly chewy and able to keep its shape will work best.
Taffies, soft caramels, chocolate chews and the like are all excellent choices because you can wet these a little bit or let them get wet in the rain to increase their alluring aroma.
Soggy or not raccoons will still love them, so don’t worry about these as long as they don’t dissolve away. Your raccoons might get caught, quite literally, with their paws in the candy bowl!
Marshmallows are a fairly innovative bait for raccoons since it exploits both their love of sweets, as we have learned, but also a bit of mimicry, working like a decoy.
As mentioned elsewhere, raccoons are relentless raiders of other animals’ nests, looking for the delicious and nutritious eggs that are commonly found within. You know what else looks like an egg to a hungry raccoon? A little, perfectly white marshmallow.
Imagine the surprise of the raccoon when it reaches out for what it suspects is an egg but turns out to be a soft, fluffy and deliciously sweet marshmallow. Well, surprised or not, raccoons are serious opportunists and they won’t turn their nose up at it.
#9. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter seems to be the bait to beat if you are trying to catch a mammal. There are just so many that love it!
Most of us had our first turn at baiting when setting a mousetrap using peanut butter as bait. Besides rodents, your dog sure loves peanut butter and so it is probably no surprise that raccoons love it, too.
There’s a strong basis for this because wild raccoons commonly enjoy all sorts of seeds and nuts, and peanut butter fits that profile to a T.
Peanut butter is especially commendable as bait because it is so inexpensive and widely available, and you can also spread it, keep it or dab it on anything you need to in order to get the raccoon to perform as desired or lead it to the trap.
#10. Pet Food
No surprises here, anyone who has ever encountered a raccoon eating out of their pet’s food bowl before already knows how much raccoons love this stuff. Dry kibble and wet, canned food are equally appealing to raccoons, so if you have plenty of pet food to spare you can just put it out as bait for the raccoons.
Make sure you take up or otherwise relocate your pet’s typical bowl, because raccoons are creatures of habit and will return again and again to a ready food source, probably ignoring the bait that is in a novel location.
And don’t worry about using dry food, which would otherwise be against the tenets of raccoon baiting we learned above. Raccoons love to dip dry morsels into nearby water to soften them up, so setting out a little dish of water is all it will take to get them after the dry kibble.
Raccoons might be charmers when they aren’t causing problems, but problems they often cause thanks to their inquisitive and food obsessed nature.
Turn these instincts against them by exploiting their love of food with the novel baits that we have shared with you on this list.
With a little creativity and a little persistence you’ll soon have the furry little thief right where you want him.