Raccoons and rabbits inhabiting the same areas is a common occurrence. This begs the question – with raccoons being expert hunters and rabbits being common prey, do raccoons eat rabbits? The answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: While raccoons certainly can and do eat rabbits on occasion, rabbits do not make up a major part of the raccoon diet. Raccoons are omnivorous opportunistic eaters and will eat rabbits if the opportunity arises, but they prefer smaller and easier prey like mice, eggs, insects, and plants.

In this comprehensive article, we will analyse the evidence to uncover the predator-prey relationship between raccoons and rabbits in detail. We will look at the dietary habits of raccoons, examine real-world observations and scientific studies on interactions between raccoons and rabbits, and discuss the factors that determine whether a raccoon will prey on rabbits or not.

By the end, you will have a nuanced understanding of whether, how often, and under what circumstances raccoons eat rabbits.

The Omnivorous and Opportunistic Diet of Raccoons

Raccoons are predators and scavengers

Raccoons are well-known for their extremely diverse and adaptable diets. As opportunistic omnivores, they will eat almost anything they can find or catch. Primarily, raccoons are predators and scavengers that hunt live prey as well as search garbage cans and compost piles for their next meal.

Raccoons as opportunistic feeders

The “masked bandits” will eat fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs, frogs, fish, rodents and insects. They also don’t shy away from raiding nests for baby birds and bird eggs. Essentially, they are opportunistic feeders – taking advantage of any readily available food sources they come across while prowling at night.

Primary diet consists of smaller prey

While raccoons are omnivores, the bulk of their diet consists of smaller animals that they can easily catch and kill. This includes rodents, rabbits, amphibians, snails, crabs, insects and worms. Based on several wildlife research studies, over 50% of the average raccoon’s diet is made up of invertebrates, while over 30% consists of plant matter (nuts, fruits, seeds, berries).

Plant matter and human food also eaten

In urban and suburban areas, raccoons have grown accustomed to raiding garbage cans for leftovers and pet food. They are also fond of corn, melons and acorns when in season. Raccoons are clearly resourceful animals that supplement their primary diets of small animals with whatever plant matter or human food they can find.

Observations and Studies on Raccoon-Rabbit Interactions

Anecdotal observations of raccoons eating rabbits

There are scattered anecdotal reports from homeowners, hunters, and wildlife enthusiasts of witnessing raccoons attacking, killing, and eating both wild and domestic rabbits. These chance observations note raccoons ambushing rabbit nests, digging into burrows, and carrying off juvenile or baby rabbits.

Some descriptions are quite graphic, with raccoons described as “ripping rabbits apart”.

While alarming, these chance observations likely represent opportunistic and individual raccoon behavior rather than widespread or common interactions. Still, they confirm raccoons do prey on rabbits when given the chance.

Scientific studies on raccoon predation of rabbits

Direct scientific research specifically on raccoon predation of rabbits is limited. However, some regional food habit studies of raccoon diets have noted rabbits as minor parts of their omnivorous diets.

A study in Texas found Eastern cottontail rabbits in approximately 2% of examined raccoon scat samples.

In the wildlife management book “Wild Mammals of North America”, rabbits were noted as occasional prey for raccoons. But actual predation rates were labeled as rare due to the speed and agility of rabbits to evade capture.

More research is needed on interaction rates in areas of high raccoon and rabbit overlap.

Predation rates seem low but present

While not a primary or preferred food source, evidence confirms that raccoons do opportunistically prey on rabbits in some capacities where habitats overlap. This is likely more common with juvenile rabbits.

Actual rates of successful predation are difficult to find but anecdotal accounts and limited diet studies suggest levels are fairly low but present in many regions.

Key factors are abundant rabbit densities and individual raccoons willing to hunt live prey. Still, rabbits must continue to exhibit caution even around familiar urban raccoons who may turn to live prey if easier food sources are scarce.

Factors Determining Likelihood of Predation

Age and size of raccoon

The age and size of a raccoon plays a significant role in determining if it will predate on rabbits. Generally, adult raccoons are more likely to hunt rabbits than juvenile raccoons. Adult raccoons have greater strength and experience catching prey compared to younger individuals.

Additionally, larger raccoons are more capable of taking down rabbits due to their increased body mass and jaw strength.

Availability of easier prey

Raccoons are opportunistic predators and will target easy prey when available. If there are abundant sources of food like garbage, pet food or fruit trees nearby, raccoons may opt for those rather than expend energy hunting rabbits.

However, in areas where easier food sources are scarce, raccoons may be more inclined to prey on rabbits. The availability of smaller and slower prey like mice, rats, squirrels, amphibians and invertebrates can also influence the likelihood of rabbits being targeted.

Health and size of rabbit

A rabbit’s chances of escaping predation depend heavily on its size and health. Small, juvenile rabbits are much easier prey for raccoons than healthy, full grown adults. Weak, sick or injured rabbits are also more vulnerable to raccoon attacks.

A healthy, adult eastern cottontail rabbit can reach speeds up to 18 mph over short distances, making it a challenging target for raccoons. However, rabbits weakened by disease or with physical impairments are less likely to elude pursuing raccoons.

Habitat and seasonal conditions

The habitat where rabbits and raccoons overlap influences predation frequency. In urban and suburban areas, habitat fragmentation limits interactions and reduces predation pressure. However, in agricultural or natural environments with interspersed woodlands and open areas, rabbits and raccoons are more likely to cross paths.

Seasonal conditions like winter, when prey is scarce, can also increase predation risk for rabbits. During spring and summer when alternative prey abounds, raccoons may be less inclined to hunt rabbits.


In conclusion, healthy adult rabbits are generally not a preferred prey item for raccoons due to their large size and speed. However, raccoons are skilled hunters and will opportunistically prey on young, sick, injured and slow rabbits if given the chance, especially when easier prey is scarce.

The predator-prey relationship between raccoons and rabbits is complex, depending on many factors like habitat, season, individual animal traits and availability of alternate prey. While not a primary part of their diet, raccoons do eat rabbits occasionally, so rabbits cannot feel entirely safe from predation when raccoons are present.

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