While raccoons are nocturnal and usually more active at night, there are a few reasons they might venture out during the day. They might be searching for food, avoiding a predator, or caring for young. Being out during the day is not necessarily indicative of a sick raccoon.
Why would a Raccoon be out During the Day?
Most of the time, seeing a raccoon out during the day is no cause for alarm. As long as the raccoon isn’t exhibiting other odd behaviors, they’re most likely normal and healthy. Here are common reasons why raccoons come out during the day:
- If there is an available food source. Raccoons are opportunistic little omnivores and will come out during the day if food is available.
- If they’ve been frightened out of their den. If their dens are disturbed they’re likely to leave, even during the day.
- If there are babies to feed. Mother raccoons require more food during birthing and nursing seasons and may venture out during the day to meet those needs.
What to do if you see a Raccoon out During the Day
- Leave it alone. If you see a raccoon during daylight hours, no matter how cute they are, leave it alone. If it’s healthy, it will be on its way at some point. But even healthy raccoons can spread disease or bite.
- Never feed it. Feeding raccoons encourages close contact, which can be dangerous to you and the raccoon.
- Exercise caution. Always be careful around wildlife, and this includes raccoons. The closer you get, the higher your risk of a bite or contracting diseases the raccoon may be carrying.
- Secure your garbage cans. Garbage cans can provide easy access to food for raccoons. Make sure to keep lids on your bins and secure them so they can’t be toppled. If you can, keep them inside a garage or shed.
- Secure your home. If your area is prone to raccoons, make sure you’ve secured any access points, including crawl spaces, areas under decks and loose siding. Raccoons will den just about anywhere they can get to and will quickly cause property damage if they move in.
- Call an expert. If you suspect that a raccoon is denning on your property — inside your house or out — call an expert for assistance. They are professionally trained on how to remove wildlife from homes and will offer advice for keeping them out.
Is a Raccoon that is Active During the Daytime Rabid?
Raccoons are more active during dusk and dawn and during the night, but being out during the day can be normal too and does not necessarily mean the animal is rabid. The only reason, being out during the day might be cause for alarm is if the animal is behaving oddly in other ways — combined, these could be signs of rabies. If you suspect a rabid raccoon, do not approach it. Call animal control or pest control and leave the animal alone.
Signs and Symptoms of Rabies
- Difficulty walking. Rabid raccoons will have fully or partially paralyzed hind legs. They may also walk in circles or look like they’re walking on hot pavement.
- Makes strange noises. Healthy raccoons make a variety of sounds, but a rabid animal might bark or whine for no discernible reason.
- Foaming at the mouth. This is one of the most memorable signs of rabies and is caused by excess drool caused by throat paralysis.
- Looks confused and disoriented. A healthy raccoon will look alert and active while a sick one will look disoriented.
- Unprovoked aggression. Rabies causes some mammals to become more aggressive than is reasonable or in character.
While it isn’t possible to know for sure whether an animal is rabid just by looking at it, professionals can tranquilize the animal and have it tested if you report suspect behavior.
Behaviors Exhibited by both Healthy and Rabid Raccoons
- Out during the day. This is normal for raccoons despite being mostly nocturnal. This is only alarming when combined with other odd behaviors.
- Not afraid of humans. Raccoons have become very accustomed to being around humans and are known for being bold. Don’t mistake this for aggression, but do maintain your distance.
What to do if a Raccoon Attacks you
- Remove yourself from the situation. If getting away is possible, leave. If the raccoon felt threatened by you, leaving should remove the threat and the animal won’t follow. If the animal is rabid, it may not be capable of following.
- Defend yourself. Avoid direct contact as much as possible, but if you can’t run use whatever is handy, like a stick or umbrella, to keep the animal at a distance until you can get away. Never try to handle the animal.
- Get help. Once you’re safe, it’s important to contact your local wildlife organization or animal control and report the incident. Local authorities may need to investigate the possibility of a rabid animal and can offer guidance on future run-ins.
To recap, while being out during the day may seem odd to you, raccoons might just be out scavenging for food for themselves or their young, or avoiding danger near their dens. If you notice other odd behaviors in a raccoon out during the day, including poor motor function, aggression, foaming at the mouth, or disorientation, these could be signs of a sick animal. Don’t approach it. Call for help and remove yourself from the situation as best you can.