If you’ve ever spotted a raccoon out wandering around during the daytime hours, you may have wondered if that’s normal behavior or cause for concern. As expert wildlife rehabilitators, we often get asked about raccoon daytime activity. The simple answer is that while raccoons are nocturnal by nature and do most of their foraging at night, it’s not abnormal or necessarily a sign of illness for them to be awake and active during daylight too. However, there are some important nuances to understand about what healthy raccoon behavior looks like.

Raccoons Are Naturally Nocturnal

Raccoon dog

First, let’s establish that raccoons are considered nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active after sunset and through the overnight hours into the very early morning. Their nighttime routine of scavenging for food, moving from den to den, and tending to their young kits allows them to avoid many predators and take advantage of quiet urban/suburban environments when most humans are asleep.

Their superb night vision, extremely sensitive hearing, and dexterous front paws all evolved to aid in this nocturnal lifestyle. In their natural habitats, raccoons sleep for the majority of the daytime curled up in hollow trees, ground burrows, chimneys, attics, or other cozy den locations that provide safety and shelter.

So if raccoons are built for nighttime living, why do we sometimes see them out during the day too? There are a few common reasons this can occur even when the raccoon is perfectly healthy.

Nursing Mother Raccoons

Raccoon dog

One of the most frequent sightings of raccoons in the daytime happens when a mother raccoon (or “sow”) has just given birth to a new litter of kits. Mother raccoons are extremely devoted parents, rarely leaving their kits alone for more than a few hours to quickly forage for food and water before rushing back to the den.

In the first couple months after giving birth, a nursing sow needs to consume a huge amount of calories and stay very well hydrated to produce enough milk for her often litter of 4-5 ravenous kits. This means she has to leave the den multiple times during daylight hours as well as at night to find adequate nourishment. So if you see a raccoon boldly out in the open during the day, there’s a good chance it’s a new mother stocking up on food to take back to her litter.

Seeking New Dens

Raccoon dog on tree

Another major reason raccoons venture out in daylight is when they are in the process of moving to a new den site or shelter location. This commonly happens in spring when raccoons emerge from their winter dens or when a male (“boar”) needs to relocate and find new territory after mating season.

Raccoons will scope out prospective new denning spots during the day and night. They may be seeking a more secure location if their current den has become disturbed or exposed to predators. Or a male may simply be looking to establish a new home base for the upcoming breeding period where he can mate and avoid conflict with other male raccoons.

While relocating, a raccoon will spend more time out in the open making long treks between various hiding spots as it looks for that ideal new den site. This increases the chances of humans spotting them wandering around neighborhoods, parks, and business areas in broad daylight as they journey to find their next home.

Young Raccoons Exploring

Raccoon dog


It’s also very common to see juvenile raccoons, recently out venturing on their own for the first time, chirping and scampering around in the open air of backyards and alleys during daytime hours. After sticking close to their mother for several months after birth, young raccoons reach an age where their curiosity drives them to start exploring their surroundings independently.

They may be spotted bouncing around trees, rooftops, and power lines with endless energy. These adolescent raccoons are still extremely naïve and inexperienced compared to adults in their navigation of the world, so daytime sightings shouldn’t necessarily raise alarms. As long as they appear healthy and aren’t creating a nuisance, they are likely just going through an important phase of learning how to survive on their own within the safety of their mother’s nearby territory before eventually dispersing fully.

Illness, Injury, or Disturbance

While the above reasons are perfectly normal occurrences, there are some more concerning potential factors behind raccoon daytime activity. In those cases, the raccoon’s behavior or physical appearance may indicate that it is injured, sick, or in distress.

Raccoon dog

For example, a raccoon that seems lethargic, stumbling and uncoordinated, or is leaving behind traces of blood could very likely be suffering from an illness (like distemper or parvovirus) or serious wound that is spurring abnormal behavior patterns of being awake during daylight hours when they would normally be resting. An abundance of visible parasites or patchy and mangy fur can also signal a raccoon in poor health that requires professional wildlife assistance.

Similarly, if there has been recent human activity or heavy construction in the area that could have disturbed, damaged, or destroyed a raccoon den, that upheaval may be what is driving mother raccoons and their kits out into the open at odd hours as they are displaced and desperate to find a new secure shelter.

When in doubt, it’s wise to contact wildlife control authorities or local raccoon rehabilitators for professional guidance if you encounter raccoons acting strangely or appearing unwell during daylight hours rather than attempting to handle the situation yourself.

For the most part though, healthy raccoons out and about during the day aren’t necessarily cause for concern. Unless they are clearly exhibiting signs of distress or have entered a home or area where they are directly endangering humans or themselves, raccoons spotted in the daylight can likely just be attributed to their natural cycles of raising young, seeking new den sites, or young ones curiously exploring the world around them.

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