Do Raccoons Eat Tomatoes? (Here’s What They Do)

Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores known to eat almost anything under the sun. They often live near farmlands or in urban and suburban areas where they have easy access to food sources, such as crops and livestock. When hungry, raccoons can easily enter a backyard garden and eat whatever vegetables or fruits they find available. This begs the question: do they like tomatoes?

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Do Raccoons Eat Tomatoes?

Raccoons eat tomatoes. However, these omnivores mostly eat tomatoes when there is nothing else available. Raccoons have a sweeter tooth and prefer other vegetable matter, such as fresh fruit, sweetcorn, apples, berries, peas, beans, melons, and potatoes. Tomatoes and other vegetables in the nightshade family are acidic, and raccoons only eat them if they can’t find anything more palatable.

Why Do They Eat Tomatoes?

Like most pests that get into a vegetable garden, raccoons eat tomatoes because they are hungry, and tomatoes are readily available. However, tomatoes are not a raccoon’s first choice.

In fact, raccoons will likely avoid tomatoes altogether if other vegetables or fruits are available, including peas, beans, apples, or berries.

Along with tomatoes, raccoons also tend to avoid other vegetables in the nightshade family, such as eggplant and peppers. There are no specific studies on why raccoons avoid nightshade plants, but the presence of solanine in these vegetables is the most plausible explanation.

Solanine is a neurotoxin found in all nightshade plants. The highest concentration is in green potatoes, which are known to cause adverse reactions in humans, too.

However, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants also contain solanine – albeit at lower concentrations.

Nevertheless, it is likely that raccoons can smell or taste solanine in these vegetables. While the concentration is too low to trigger poisoning, raccoons generally avoid these veggies if they have other choices. Another reason why raccoons might prefer other vegetable matter is the acidic pH of tomatoes, which these animals seem to dislike.

What Types of Tomato Do Raccoons Eat?

Although tomatoes are not a raccoon’s first choice, they still eat them when there is nothing else available. There are a few types these mammals even seem to prefer.

Here is a list of tomatoes raccoons will eat:

  • Plum tomatoes: The sweetest of all tomato varieties, plum tomatoes contain about six grams of carbs per 100 grams of wet weight. They are also rich in vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
  • Beefsteak tomatoes: One of the most common varieties of tomatoes cultivated in backyard gardens, beefsteak tomatoes are fleshy and sweet. They contain about five grams of carbs per 100 grams of wet weight. Like plum tomatoes, they are rich in vitamin C, but also vitamin A and iron.
  • Cherry tomatoes: Also high on a raccoon’s list of preferences are cherry tomatoes. These tomatoes only contain 3.9 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams of wet weight, but they are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium.
  • Black Prince tomatoes: This heirloom tomato is characterized by a darker, almost black color and a very sweet taste when ripe. Similar to beefsteak tomatoes, the Black Prince tomatoes contain about five grams of sugar per 100 grams of raw product.

In addition to the varieties above, raccoons eat all types of tomatoes if they can’t find anything else. Generally, raccoons eat ripe tomatoes, either directly on the vine or ones that have fallen down. However, in extreme circumstances, raccoons will also snack on green tomatoes – in this case, they might leave the tomato half-eaten.

Do Raccoons Eat Tomatoes Out Of The Garden?

Raccoons eat tomatoes, but they are not the only pests that could raid your garden. Deer, chipmunks, squirrels, opossums, groundhogs, and even birds can snack on them.

If you live near a wooded area, squirrels and deer are more likely to eat your tomatoes than raccoons. However, if you find lots of half-eaten tomatoes which look like they have been bitten by a dog, raccoons are the most likely culprits (dogs – and cats, as a matter of fact – will not eat the tomatoes in your garden).

Raccoons are also the most likely culprits if you notice that the tomatoes have been picked off the vine.

These animals are known to use their front paws like hands and can pick up the tomatoes, take a few bites, then leave them half-eaten.

5 Methods To Prevent Raccoons From Eating Your Tomatoes

Raccoons are smart, alert, and curious animals. Few things can keep them away from an area, especially if they have figured out that said area provides easy access to food. There are a few ways to keep them out of your garden, though. 

Here are five methods to keep raccoons from eating your tomatoes.

1. Fence Them Out

Barriers constitute the most effective way of keeping raccoons, and other wildlife, out of your garden. Electric fences turned on at night are the most likely to work. In addition to raccoons, these fences will also keep away deer and rabbits.

2. Relocate The Raccoons

Another effective method of keeping raccoons out of your garden is relocating them. To do this, you would have to set humane raccoon traps to catch the pests.

Luckily, raccoons are easy to catch by placing food inside the traps. Once you’ve caught them, relocate the raccoons to a wooded area (make sure there is a source of water nearby), at least three miles from your home.

Before trying this method, you should consult the raccoon relocation regulations in your area. Raccoons can carry rabies, so most states have rules regarding their relocation.

3. Try Raised Beds

Planting your vegetables in raised beds rather than directly on the ground could also help keep pests away. The beds should be at least 18 inches high, and you should plant a few plants raccoons dislike near the edges of each raised bed.

Plants with leaves or vines that are prickly to walk on are your best bet, such as pumpkins, cucumbers, pole beans, globe thistle, and oriental poppies.

4. Repel Them With Plants

Raccoons are hard to repel, but they could be less determined to get into your garden if you plant a few plants that smell bad (for raccoons) around the garden’s fence or edges.

Some plants that could repel raccoons include peppermint and garlic. Protective plant pairings also work. For instance, you can plant mint, garlic, and cayenne peppers around tomato plants to prevent raccoons from getting to them. You can protect other vegetables raccoons are likely to eat in the same way.

Plants aside, raccoons also dislike the smell of ammonia. You can deter them by scattering ammonia across your property.

5. Limit Their Access to Food

Raccoons are opportunistic animals, and they stick around your property because they have easy access to food.

All of the methods above can help you protect your vegetable garden. Limiting access to food can help you keep raccoons off your entire property.

Start with your garbage cans and make sure you can lock the lids closed. As explained, raccoons can use their front paws like hands, and they can open the lids if they are not locked. Limit access to livestock feeders and keep your livestock in a secured area during the night.

Don’t leave pet food outdoors either. Raccoons can also eat cats and small dogs, so keep your pets indoors or in a secured area at night. Bird feeders should also be placed away from trees, and other structures raccoons could climb.

To End

Raccoons can and will eat tomatoes if they can’t find more palatable foods. However, tomatoes are not a raccoon’s first choice. Other animals that could eat the tomatoes in your garden include deer, squirrels, chipmunks, and groundhogs. We hope this guide can help you figure out whether your tomatoes are eaten by raccoons and how to keep these pests away from your property.

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