Why Do Raccoons Dip Food In Water

Why do raccoons always wash there food before eating ?

I have ben watching thease critters eating for quite some time and every time thay roll there food in water, why?

11 Answers

Raccoons sometimes dip their food in water, grasping it and rubbing it in a way that makes them look like they are «washing» their food. Do raccoons actually clean and wash their food? Studies have been performed to scientifically investigate this behavior. Characteristics of food items were considered such as size, texture, shape, and smell. Some of the food was even coated with sand. All experiments pointed to one conclusion, sometimes they place their food in water and sometimes they don’t! But when they do place their food in water and make their «washing» motions, it has little to do with any of the factors mentioned above.

It is suggested by researchers that this «washing» behavior be called dousing, since raccoons may not «wash» their food, but they certainly dip it in water often enough (Lyall-Watson 1963). Why do raccoons sometimes douse their food? It has been suggested that they cannot salivate well and need to moisten the food. However, raccoons have since been shown to have normal salivary glands. It is thought that the dousing behavior is something that only occurs only when raccoons are held in captivity. Their normal foraging behavior, which sometimes includes searching stream banks and dabbling their hands in for food, is thought to become retarded when they are deprived of natural feeding conditions. While this is basically a theory and we may never really know why they douse their food, it does explain how the dousing often serves no real purpose. Sometimes they douse other things than food and to a ridiculous degree. One captive raccoon held at the London Zoo carried her new born to water and doused them so often she actually drowned them (Lyall-Watson 1963).

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why do raccoons wash their food?

3 Answers

Raccoons have small, slender feet that they use to catch and hold on to their food. Their front feet resemble little hands, and their slender fingers can be used to remove garbage can lids and open containers and even door latches. Raccoons in the wild have often been observed swishing their food through the water of a lake or stream before eating, giving the appearance of washing their food and their hands. Raccoons kept in cages will also wet their food, dipping it into their water bowls.

Scientists are not sure why raccoons exhibit this behavior. At one time they believed raccoons did not have enough saliva and needed to moisten their food before swallowing it. They now know that isn’t true. Some believe raccoons might wet their food so they can mush it up a bit to make sure they’ve removed any sharp sticks or bones. Some have speculated that raccoons have a highly developed sense of touch, and they just like to handle their food in many different ways-putting it in water, rubbing dirt on it-to figure out what it is they are eating. Sometimes raccoons have been seen «washing» food in dirt instead of water, which indicates that this is an instinctive behavior that may not have any purpose at all. 🙂 🙂

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Why do raccoons eat water ?

Wiki User
October 24, 2009 8:25PM

Raccoons main senses are touch and smell. Their sense of touch

is greater under water and since they rely heavily on their sense

of touch, they prefer to feel the food under the water. They often

dip their food in water. They do, however, produce saliva —

although it is a popular wives tale that raccoons do not produce

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Marcia Davis
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A bird bath is for bird bathing and drinking. Right?

Wrong. Just because that’s what you had in mind when you bought it doesn’t mean it won’t be used by an animal for some other purpose.

People often become upset — even disgusted — if crows or hawks use an immaculately maintained bird bath as a place to dismember and wash prey. Recently a reader was disturbed to repeatedly find small animal body parts and pieces of who knows what in a bird bath. I’ve read of people finding small skulls, baby rabbit legs, floating eyeballs, pizza crust and even road kill in the bird bath. Yuck!

Raccoons wash their food in water in bird baths, as do some hawks.

But it’s usually the crows that people commonly see abusing the bird bath privileges. Crows can turn a pristine bird bath into a food prep sink. And they can leave a mess for you to clean up.

Last week I spotted a crow and its relatives at one of my bird baths. It held a large, flat, pale yellow object in its beak. The object looked suspiciously like a potato chip. The crow dipped it into the water. I looked with binoculars. The object had ridges. Yes, it was a potato chip.

Would one of the neighbors feed potato chips to crows? More likely the crow got into someone’s garbage or scraps left outdoors.

It was interesting that the crow did not immediately eat the soggy potato chip. It flew away with the chip sticking out of the side of its mouth. When a crow returned again to dunk another chip I ran out and startled it. I wanted the crow to drop the chip so I could examine it.

The piece of potato chip abandoned on the ground felt like wet cardboard.

Crows are notorious for washing and soaking food like bread in water. You might assume they dunk the food only to soften it. But there’s more going on than just softening food to make it easier to eat.

During the nesting season, baby birds rely on their parents to provide them with foods containing enough moisture to prevent dehydration, especially on the hottest days during summer. Tiny baby birds probably get enough moisture from the insects and small fruits their parents feed them. But moistened food and saliva is bound to help.

One theory about crow food-dunking behavior is that it provides added moisture to large baby crows.

Then there is the situation of the adult female crow who tends the nest and babies all the time. She depends on her mate and other crows known as helpers to bring food for her to eat as well as the food they bring for her to feed to the nestlings. Since both she and her babies need water in addition to food, dunking the food in water provides much needed moisture. Crows sometimes dunk food in a bird bath and then carry the moistened food directly to a nest. They don’t always eat it themselves.

Don’t be surprised if you see a crow carrying an egg sometime. Crows don’t dunk eggs in water. After puncturing them with their bill they stick their bill inside the broken egg to remove and eat the contents.

How do crows carry eggs? You might have heard about birds carrying eggs either with their feet or with in their bills. Last week I watched a crow fly with a large egg (I think it was a mallard duck egg) positioned lengthwise in its bill. One end of the intact oval egg was sticking out the front of the crow’s mouth as the crow flew up out of the underbrush where several crows were making a fuss.

The crow deposited the egg on the ground and started pecking on it with its bill. The other crows, about four of them, gathered around.

The crow pierced the egg shell and pecked out an opening. As it stuck its bill inside the egg to remove and eat the contents, one of the other crows tried to move in but was rebuffed by the possessor of the egg.

This might have been a family group of parents and young. But the crow in control of the egg was not interested in sharing it with any of the onlookers.

It’s fascinating to watch the behavior of crows. Feed them their favorite foods someplace nearby where you can see them but away from where you feed the other birds. You might want to provide crows with their own bird bath near the crow food. Think about a lightweight plastic bird bath that’s easy to clean. Put your main bird bath closer to the house for the other birds.

Water is extremely important to birds for drinking, eating, bathing, feather maintenance and cooling off on hot summer days. Offer several sources of water to increase the bird activity in your yard.

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Raccoons and the Myth of Washing Food

Raccoons are highly intelligent and curious creatures, and these qualities have helped raccoons thrive in both wild and urban habitats. This intelligence and curiosity combined with a pair of highly dexterous hands also means that raccoons cause a lot of mischief in their search for food, and often find ways into houses, campers and coolers. The occasional banditry aside, the hands of a raccoon are incredible appendages and shape how raccoons interact with the world. The hands of a raccoon have many times more touch receptors than their feet and a lot of the processing space in a raccoon brain is dedicated to their hands. They often to use their hands to “see” in situations like foraging underwater, feeling under overhangs, and moving in the dark.

The fact that raccoons use their hands as both tools and as one of their most important sense organs has led to the myth that raccoons wash their food. Raccoons in captivity have been observed “washing” their food, which is actually repeated dipping and rolling of food items in water. This behavior has led to a widespread belief that raccoons wash their food before eating or that they need to soften their food. This behavior is not really washing and food preparation but an outlet for a raccoon’s constant need to use their hand to sense the world and look for food. In the wild raccoons are constantly dabbling in water and searching in nooks and crannies, and in the captivity this behavior finds an outlet in food “washing”. Some biologists have described the behavior more as feeling than washing, and this description is supported by the fact that raccoons often rub and roll their food even in dry enclosures and rub their hands together even when they are not holding anything.

The food washing myth has persisted because in the wild raccoons are constantly foraging in water and rolling and handling their prey, which often looks like they are washing their food. Raccoons do not have a very good grip because of the lack of opposable thumbs, and so they often hold items with two hands and frequently roll objects between their hands. If this behavior happens near water it also looks like washing.

The truth is that raccoons in the wild do not really wash their food in any way that we as humans think of washing. They constantly forage in the water and will often roll food items in their hands, but they are actually looking for food and working to get it into their mouth with much less concern about how clean it may be.

To learn more about raccoons see:

Elbroch, Mark and Kurt Rinehart. Behavior of North American Mammals. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2011. 374 pgs.

Lotze, J.-H. and S. Anderson. 1979. Procyon lotor. Mammalian Species 119:1-8.

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Why raccoons wash their food before eating

Dispelling the myth that raccoons wash their food

The short answer for why raccoons wash their food is, they don’t. Surprised? I sure was! You, like me, have probably always heard about how raccoons like to wash off their meal before they dine. But after noticing that raccoons in captivity go through the same motions with their food regardless of whether or not there is water around, researchers questioned if this was actually a habit based on cleanliness. What they discovered is that the propensity for raccoons to dip food in water actually has little to do with washing it. Instead, it’s all about making their paws more sensitive to touch, so they can take in more information — such as shape and texture — about what they’re about to eat.

Raccoon Eating Habits

Here is how How Stuff Works explains it: «Raccoons actually have the same nerve grouping on the hairless parts of their forepaws as primates have, including humans, making them very sensitive to touch . In a study examining the slowly adapting nerves in the forepaws of 136 raccoons, researchers found that wetting the skin increases the nerve responsiveness. Think about what happens when you look through a pair of sunglasses and then quickly take them off. When you remove them, your optical nerve responsiveness will likely increase because more light is flooding into your retinas to illuminate what you’re looking at. Likewise, when raccoons perform their dunking ritual, the water on their paws could excite the nerves in their forepaws. That, in turn, gives them a more vivid tactile experience and provides precise information about what they’re about to eat. This is a beneficial trait since the raccoon’s vision isn’t its keenest sense.»

Gripping Food

In watching raccoons feeding at the edge of a pond, you’ll notice they often look up while moving their forepaws around to search for food, tap-tap-tapping along until they find something that feels like lunch. They’re using their hands to see and find food, rather than their eyes. Rolling their catch around in their paws lets them know just what they’re about to eat. Same goes for when there is no water around at all. While the action looks like washing, it’s more about getting a good enough grip on their catch and figuring out the best way to get their meal into their mouth.

If you’re worried about this ruining your perception of raccoons as cute little bandits that steal food from trash bins and backyards then wash it before eating, don’t worry — they’re still cute little bandits that steal food from trash bins and backyards.

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Why Do Raccoons Wash Their Food?

Why Do Raccoons Wash Their Food?

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There is some truth to the story that raccoons wash their food before eating it. A raccoon may dip its food in water before eating it, but this habit does not indicate cleanliness, for the water may be dirty. And raccoons will eat most anything, whether it is washed or not. Some people believe that a raccoon washes its food beca

If the McDonald’s Hamburglar had a spirit animal, it would be the raccoon. This masked bandit of the rodent world is notorious for its food thievery. Omnivorous raccoons eat plants and small animals, such as mice, and have adapted to living near humans. In the wild, they’ll dine on plants, nuts and fruits; in urban areas, they’ll sniff and steal food out of your garbage can, pilfer pet food and grab fish from backyard ponds. Have you ever taken the trash out at night, only to find it strewn across your yard the next morning? It could be the handiwork of nocturnal raccoons. In a study of farm-crop plundering by wild animals, Purdue University researchers found that deer and raccoons were responsible for 95 percent of the dam

Whatever the raccoon’s reasons for washing its food, it has been known to even do the same thing with pebbles, which it doesn’t eat! The raccoon washes and scrubs the pebbles until they shine, then piles them up in a mound to dry in the sun.

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