Raccoon Outside in the Daytime - Is it Rabid?

Many people think that a raccoon that is outside and active during daylight hours has rabies. People know that coons are nocturnal animals, and usually only active at nighttime. So if a raccoon is out and about during the day instead of night, something is wrong, right?

While it is true that a rabid raccoon will exhibit a variety of unusual behaviors, activity during daytime is most definitely not a guaranteed indicator of rabies. You see, although raccoons are primarily nocturnal, they do often get some stuff done during the day. It is not at all unusual for a raccoon to be active in the middle of the day. They can't just sleep from dawn to dusk without doing anything. They may go off in search of food or drink. This is especially true of nursing female raccoons, who have a bunch of babies to take care of, and who have extra nutritional requirements, because they are nursing their young. In the spring, you're sure to see some mother raccoons gathering extra food during the daytime, so that they can produce more milk.

Read here for the top 5 behaviors of a rabid raccoon for a better idea of what a rabid raccoon looks and acts like.

How can I tell if a raccoon has rabies? Rabid raccoons are very sick. Mostly, they are lethargic. Their walk may be erratic, or their legs paralyzed. They may be walking in circles or falling over, or lurching in an unnatural fashion. In short, they just plain look sick. If you see a raccoon outside when it's light out, and it looks agile, alert, is running or foraging in a smooth and coordinated and normal manner, then you can be almost certain that it doesn't have rabies. This doesn't mean that you should approach it and offer it a lick of your ice cream cone, but you most likely have nothing to worry about.

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What to do if I encounter a raccoon out in the day - If you see a raccoon, no matter what time of day, leave it alone. Never try to feed it or approach it. Seeing a raccoon out in the day isn’t an immediate cause for alarm. There are many reasons why this nocturnal animal might be out and about. If you live in an urban setting, or if the year has been bad for food, raccoons will change their habits to fit when food is most available. If you always put your garbage out at 1:00 in the afternoon, the raccoons in the area will learn that. A raccoon out in the daytime that is lingering in your yard, seems overly friendly, is acting unstable, lethargic, or is walking in odd patterns, should be reported to the police. Most police stations will come out and shoot a raccoon that may be ill. The body is then sent to the health department where it will be evaluated for possible infectious disease. Aside from odd behavior, seeing a raccoon out in daylight does not always mean the creature is ill. Humans are active primarily during the day, but if you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you hope your neighbor doesn’t assume you are a threat.

Click to learn more about other raccoon diseases other than rabies. Click here for my full guide on raccoon trapping tips.


Actual Situation: Hello, today I went to my parent's home and saw a large raccoon that has apparently dug underneath their shed in the backyard. I'm a little nervous because I saw it out diring the daytime, and I'm wondering if it's sick or has rabies. I'm simply curious how much it'd cost to trap it and have it relocated back into the wild. They live in Alexandria near Mt. Vernon. To them it's no dire rush nor emergency as they don't even want me to have it removed, but I'm concerned because I see it moving during the day. As well, money is naturally tight due to the recession. Just price checking. Please respond when you can. Thanks for your time.

My response: Daytime behavior doesn't mean rabies - it's a common thing for these animals to do. I don't service the Alexandria area, but I do have a guy that I know who does wildlife removal there. Just click on my directory, and you'll find his number, and you can call him for a price quote.

Actual Situation: Hello, I heard and saw a raccoon on my roof yesterday afternoon. I saw him jump off. This morning I saw shingles lifted off in different areas, I checked my attic and there doesn't appear to be any damage. No signs of entry. What are the chances he/she will return to my roof? Is it true that it has rabies if it's active during the day? Thanks Barbara

My response: I don't know the chances that it'll return to your roof, but if it's established a home up there, or in the attic with roof access, then it will certainly be back. The fact that it was up there in the first place indicates that it has a reason to be there, and the missing shingles might mean that it's working to break its way in. And no, daytime activity is not a sign of rabies.