Do Hawks Eat Raccoons?

Hawks are opportunistic predators that can eat any animal, from small insects to large mammals and even the carrion.

Raccoons are no exception.

Therefore, the answer to the question – Do hawks eat raccons is 

If given a chance, a hawk will certainly devour a raccoon.

Paradoxically, raccoons are opportunistic foragers that often eat hawk eggs and hatchlings. 

But somehow, it is easier to picture an animated version of a hawk and a raccoon sharing a Thanksgiving meal in the magical land of Narnia than to try and envision them as each other’s predators. 

Even if that’s just my own imagination, you must be wondering:

How Does a Hawk Prey On a Raccoon? 

By giving a raccoon a breath-taking surprise.

Quite literally.

Now, like all predators, hawks prefer lazy and unguarded prey.

And so, hawks tend to surprise their victim right before snatching them. 

Since no land-dwelling animal perceives the skies as a natural threat, most animals don’t actively look directly above them. 

The same is true for raccoons.

However, hunting adult raccoons is different from preying baby raccoons. 

How so?

Well, a hawk starts its hunt by sitting motionless in a spot and waiting for its victim to come closer.

Once its prey is near enough, the hawk dives and grabs the victim with its piercing talons while squeezing the life out of it. 

Then, the hawk flies away with its partially dead prize to its nest. 

This is precisely how a hawk hunts a baby raccoon.

Now, an average raccoon baby weighs a mere 0.2-1.5 kgs and is about 8-10 inches tall.

However, a typical adult raccoon can weigh as much as 10.5 kgs and grow approximately 38 inches in height. 

In contrast, an average hawk is about 1.5-3kgs in weight and can grow as tall as 26-30inches with a wingspan of 1-2m in width (See Figure 1). 

Do Hawks Eat Raccoons?

Figure 1: Representing a comparison of Hawk and Raccoon Features and Strengths.

Hawks can lift only a fraction of their own weight, While an average hawk can easily fly away with a baby raccoon, it cannot even lift an adult from the ground.

So, if a hawk intends to eat an adult raccoon, it must get done with the deed on the crime scene.

Consequently, the hunt starts with a hawk diving directly above an adult raccoon while targeting its spine with its sharp talons.

This hit paralyzes the raccoon.

The hawk then sits on its victim while crushing it under its weight as well as with its talons.

Meanwhile, the hawk uses its hooked beak to neatly remove the fur, which furthers the raccoon’s trauma.

Finally, the hawk eats the meaty portions while the raccoon is still somewhat alive. 

Now, mature raccoons represent a more fulfilling lunch.

Also, hawks are built for this kind of hunting.

Despite that, 

Most Hawks prefer hunting raccoon babies over adult raccoons.

Why?

Because baby raccoons are exceptionally easy targets that require minimal hunting skills. 

You see,  young raccoons are both deaf and blind for a few weeks, until after their birth.

Their sense of smell is barely functional. 

Though most baby raccoons stay within their dens, these are naturally curious creatures. 

So, more often than not, these young raccoons accidentally step out of their dens and get eaten by whichever predator finds them first.

In contrast, adult raccoons have highly developed olfactory nerves and have extremely dexterous hands.

In fact, the raccoon intelligence quotient is ranked above cats and just below chimpanzees. 

Tricking an adult raccoon into getting eaten is not that easy a task.

That said, a raccoon’s long-range vision is mediocre compared to their near-vision.

So, 

A desperate hawk with enough experience and size can manage hunting an adult raccoon.

Still, not all hawks can accomplish such a feat.

And so, you may be wondering:

Which Hawks Are Most Likely To Eat a Raccoon?

Depends on the species of an hawk as well as its size and experience.

Again, only a few hawks can manage to take on a fully mature raccoon.

For instance, sharp-shinned hawks steer clear of adult raccoons but frequently eat baby raccoons.

Here is a list of hawk species that are most commonly reported to hunt a raccoon.

Hawk Species Scientific Name Prominent 

Features

Habitat Remarks
Red-Tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis 1-2.5 kgs; 

26 inches length; 

1-2m wide wingspan.

190 km/hour flight speed.

Can adapt anywhere, but mostly prefer open spaces. The most common hawk that eats raccoons.
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii 0.7-1.5 kgs weight; 

21 inches length; 1-1.5m wide wingspan.

130 km/hour flight speed.

Lives in woodlands and forests. Cooper’s hawk is a bird-eating hawk because of its swift movements.

Only hunts weak and slow raccoons.

Swainson’s Hawk Buteo swainsoni 0.7-2 kgs weight; 

19 inches length; 1-1.5m wide wingspan.

120 km/hour flight speed.

Prefers grasslands and plains. It’s a migratory bird that often hunts down raccoons.
Ferruginous Hawk Buteo 

regalis

1-2.3 kgs weight; 

24 inches length; 1-1.7m wide wingspan.

120 km/hour flight speed.

Can inhabit prairies, desserts, and grasslands alike. It’s a large hawk often seen to hunt adult raccoons in early summers.
Red-Shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus 1 kg weight;

17 inches length; 1-1.2m wide wingspan.

170 km/hour flight speed.

Live in mixed deciduous coniferous forests with water bodies. These are smaller but swifter than red-tailed hawks. Mostly grab weak raccoons. 

Nevertheless, a hungry hawk will attempt to eat any raccoon regardless of its own size or that raccoon’s age.

It is however noteworthy that raccoons may not even make a few percent of an average hawk’s natural diet. 

In fact, the most prevalent and common raccoon predator is the Great Horned Owl. 

It’s mainly because raccoons are nocturnal animals that are normally active during the night.

They are more likely to interact with owls than any other raptors.

Interestingly, raccoons can change their active hours from night to daylight, depending on the availability of food in their habitats. 

But then ornithologists often postulate and question:

If raccoons are normally active at night and hawks are active during the day, raccoons may not be a hawk’s natural diet. 

So,

Are Raccoons Healthy For Hawks?

Well, raccoons are as healthy for hawks as any other wild prey. 

You see, raccoons are opportunistic omnivorous foragers.

Therefore, they will eat anything that is easily and abundantly available, from fruits to all sorts of bugs and even mammalian meat.

Raccoons often scavenge through dumpsters and other decaying matter.

But,

That also means that raccoons are exposed to all sorts of diseases and infestations.

And so, a hawk may contract the following diseases or become carriers of these by coming in contact with the raccoons:

  1. Baylisascaris procyonis or raccoon roundworms may cause ocular infections and brain damage.
  2. Mite infestations.
  3. Canine hepatitis or parvovirus.
  4. Rabies
  5. Distemper

The ubiquitousness of these diseases is one of the major reasons why the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) discourages raccoon pets.

However, a hawk may contract such diseases by coming in contact with any of its infected victims.  

A raccoon is as safe a slice of meat as any other wild animal.

Besides, raccoon meat also represents essential nutrients for a hawk’s regular maintenance and natural growth.

These include:

  1. Carbohydrates:  to provide energy and skin maintenance.
  2. Proteins: to enhance growth and proper functioning of the hawk’s body.
  3. Fats: to supply energy reserves especially for winters.
  4. Minerals: including iron, phosphorous, selenium, and manganese for bone and feather strength.
  5. Vitamins: such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, b6, and b12 to boost immunity and provide energy. 

So, even with all its carrier diseases, a raccoon is still a fulfilling and nutritious source of food for hawks.

That said, hawks don’t eat many raccoons as they have so many options to eat from. 

Which leads me to my next point 

What Animal Does a Hawk Eat?

Technically, whatever is available or is easy to catch.

You see, a hawk is an opportunistic carnivorous predator that can eat any animal. 

Surely, a hawk’s eating habits are influenced by its species, habitat, size, as well as the availability of prey.

Therefore, certain hawks are specialized in eating only a single type of animal. 

For instance, Cooper’s Hawk is often called Quail Hawk in the North American woodlands, as it mostly hunts native quails in that region.

Here is a list of animals that hawks can eat:

Type of Hawk Diet Common Examples
Insects Grasshoppers, Praying Mantis, Beetles, Worms
Fish
Amphibians Frogs, Toads, Salamanders.
Reptiles Snakes, Lizards, Turtles.
Birds Doves, Starlings, Blackbirds, Ducks, Finches. Sparrows, Songbirds, Rails, Pigeons, Grouse, even other raptors including smaller owls.
Small Mammals Moles, Squirrels, Rabbits, Bats, Gophers, Hares, Chipmunks, Shrews, Ferrets, Rodents.
Medium to Large Mammals Cats, Dogs, Sheep, Racoons, Foxes, Bobcats, Wild Cats, Wolfs. 
Carrion Happens only when a hawk is too hungry or weak to hunt.

Now, this list is not a comprehensive list of hawk’s diet menu.

It is only to give you an idea of how a hawk will eat any animal.

This also shows how a hawk is on the top of food chains. 

Despite that, even a hawk can get eaten too 

In fact, raccoons often hunt hawk babies.

While it is hard to imagine a hawk eating a raccoon.

It is harder to think of a cute raccoon to be anything ferocious. 

But perhaps, that’s because I deem Meeko- The Raccoon from Pocahontas Movie to be the most harmonious creature. 

But, you may be wondering:

How Does a Raccoon Eat a Hawk?

It only occurs when a raccoon happens to be near an unattended hawk nest.

Now, raccoons are nature’s bandits. 

Their bodies are agile and their minds are brilliant.

They can climb trees as fast as they can walk on earth.

They even swim.

But their hands are also exceptionally dextrous.

In fact, each of their claws has five fingers and they can perform tasks as human hands do. 

Even their hind toes can pivot 180 degrees to allow them the maximum speed while climbing up and down.

So, it comes as no surprise that,

Raccoons often climb trees in search of unattended nests.

So, if a raccoon finds a hawk nest, it will surely eat all the hatchlings and eggs without a single second thought.

Now, you may be thinking: 

“Isn’t a hawk stupid and naive to leave its kids unattended?”

Not really.

You see, it’s impractical for any bird to stay with their young ones forever or all the time even during the breeding season.

Eventually, a hawk must leave its nest for foraging or bringing food home. 

If the hawk returns and finds a raccoon in its nest, it will surely devour it.

In fact, this kind of situation is even more common than a hawk specifically looking for a raccoon to eat in its lunch. 

Before I wrap up, here’s some other interesting articles about hawks which I think you’ll find interesting

Do hawks attack humans?

Do hawks eat crows?

Why do hawks circle?

Wrapping Up 

Hunting raccoon babies require less effort, therefore, most hawks can eat raccoons babies anytime they get an opportunity.

However, hunting a mature raccoon requires exceptional hunting skills. more effort.

So, only a few hawks can dare perform such a deed.

While raccoon meat is healthy for hawks, its fur may carry several diseases. 

But the situation is not that concerning as hawks have so many animals on their menu that raccoons barely make a few percent of their natural diet.