Here’s What Raccoons Actually Do During the Daytime


Common raccoon or Procyon lotor in evening sun searching for food in water

Everyone has seen a raccoon scuttling around a trashcan in the middle of the night or scuttling up a tree as the sun goes down. Since we think of raccoons as nighttime creatures, and they are considered nocturnal, one may wonder- what exactly do raccoons do during the daytime? 

In truth, raccoons don’t do much during the day time. Raccoons are most active at dawn and at dusk, which means they spend the majority of their day sleeping. However, if they are out during the day, raccoons are generally pregnant or nursing, frightened, or are near an available food source. 

Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at those reasons why raccoons may be out during the day. 

Why Would Raccoons Come Out During the Day?

While you’ll most likely find a raccoon snoozing away while the sun is high in the sky, there are a few reasons why they may venture out during the day, breaking their usual nocturnal habits. 

Pregnant and Nursing Raccoons

Mother raccoons will frequently come out during the day to forage for food. Like humans, raccoons require more food when pregnant and nursing. So, for this reason, they may be more likely to head out for a daytime snack, instead of waiting until their usual after-dark buffet. 

Raccoons are known in the animal world as being attentive, nurturing mothers. They are definitely not the kind of animals to leave their young right at birth! 

In fact, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio’s leading government website in raccoon information and control, raccoon mothers typically care for their babies for up to nine months before they start living on their own. 

After the baby raccoons are mature enough to leave the den, the mother will begin to search for a new mate to sire a fresh litter.  Typically, this happens during the fall and winter months, and the babies are born in the spring. 

Fear of Predators

If a raccoon is startled or scared out of their den during the day, they may blindly flee, not worried about if it is daytime or not. 

This may be the case if you see a raccoon darting from one dark place (like underneath a house) to another (into a tree, or underneath logs) during the day. 

What Scares Raccoons?

What kinds of things may be the source of fear for a raccoon? Honestly, it could be just about anything- from a snake to a cat to a dog to even you! 

Like most wild animals, raccoons tend to be skittish, so it takes very little to freak them out and send them running from their dens.

If you’re interested, you can read our piece on the sounds and noises that scare raccoons here.

What Does a Raccoon’s Den Look Like? 

Wondering if you’ve stumbled upon a raccoon’s den? You certainly may have- the first thing you should know about raccoon’s dens is that they can be almost anywhere. 

Raccoons love to burrow in dark, narrow places, which are everywhere!

They make their homes in brush piles, ground burrows (typically ones that have been abandoned by another ground-dwelling animal), rock crevices, clumps of dried or dead weeds, haystacks, and abandoned barns and buildings. 

They have also been known to nest in people’s basements, attics, and even chimneys, so keep an eye out if you hear scuttling or rustling in the night!

Raccoons often live in some pretty fun places. You can read more about where raccoons nest here.

What Should I Do If I Find A Raccoon’s Den?

If you happen across a raccoon’s nest in the wild, your best option is to leave it be. You don’t want to frighten the raccoons that may be living inside. 

Think about it this way: would you like someone barging into your home and waking you up while you were asleep? Probably not, and raccoons are no different! So, make sure to leave their dens alone. 

Near an Open Food Source

Another reason a raccoon may be out during the day is that it senses an open food source nearby. Above all, raccoons are opportunistic little buggers. 

This means that even though they usually sleep during the daytime, they may be lured out if they can see or smell a readily available food source- like a trashcan- nearby. 

After all, haven’t you ever gotten hungry for a midnight snack? 

Can I Feed A Raccoon That’s Out During The Day?

Despite how cute a raccoon might be, it’s never a good idea to attempt to feed a raccoon you see outside during daylight. 

For starters, raccoons can be skittish and fearful- as we’ve previously mentioned- so the last thing you want is to be on the receiving end of a raccoon scratch or bite! 

Have you ever seen the children’s book If You Give A Mouse a Cookie? Well, in this case, it would be: If You Give a Raccoon A Snack…it will never leave you alone!

Feeding a raccoon just once will give it the idea that your house/car/porch etc. is an open food source, which means it may start making your area one of its regular stops! 

So, for that reason, refrain from feeding any raccoons you see during the day or night, no matter how cute or hungry they seem! 

Should You Be Worried If You See a Raccoon in The Daytime?

Mother Raccoon and kit crossing the road

The answer to this is typically no. Aside from what we’ve mentioned above, raccoons are not considered dangerous animals. However, that doesn’t mean that that you should ever approach one, even if you don’t plan on giving it a nice snack. 

Remember, a wild raccoon is likely to be skittish, and approaching one will activate its fight or flight instinct- while it is more likely to flight than fight, you just never know!

While healthy raccoons do not typically attack humans, they may potentially go after a dog or cat. For this reason, make sure your pets are always leashed when you take them on walks, and if you suspect there is a raccoon den somewhere on your property, take extra precautions when letting dogs and cats roam outdoors. 

Raccoons can be considered both predator and prey animals. While they do prey on smaller rodents and insects, overall, they are omnivores. For this reason, combined with the fact that so many animals consider them a hearty snack, raccoons are prey animals. 

Dogs and cats are considered predator animals, meaning that they rely mainly on the meat of other animals to get an adequate food supply. A raccoon considers a predator animal a threat, and may fight back! 

What Do Raccoons Eat?

So, we’ve talked about the main reason raccoons will come out during the daytime- typically it has something to do with food. But, what exactly do raccoons eat?

Short answer? Pretty much everything. Raccoons are omnivorous, so they will eat almost anything that they can scrounge up. This includes plants, fruit, vegetables, trash, eggs, insects, and even other small animals. 

Yes, even other animals. Like we’ve mentioned before, being an omnivore means they get their nutrients from a wide variety of sources.

In the southern United States, raccoons roam the swampy marshlands alongside alligators. While fully-grown alligators will snack on raccoons, raccoons return the favor: they will hunt down alligator eggs and devour them, even going as far as to eat the babies after they hatch!

Here are 10 animals that raccoons eat and why them eat them.

Pair of Baby Raccoons (Procyon lotor) searching for food

How Big Are Raccoons?

The fact that raccoons will eat animals as big as baby alligators may surprise you- but a fully-grown raccoon is typically bigger than a freshly hatched gator! 

Adult raccoons can range from eight pounds up to a whopping twenty pounds, although these big guys are typically the ones you see rummaging around a dumpster after the sun sets.

 So, the size of a raccoon you may encounter depends entirely on where you live and what access to food it has. The raccoons you may encounter snacking on your trash will generally be a lot bigger than the ones out in the forest or marshland foraging for their food. 

How Do I Keep Raccoons Out Of My Trash? 

By this point, it’s probably pretty obvious that raccoons will take any available food source that they can. Raccoons are opportunistic animals and generally eat what they can get their paws on. This means that living in a large city won’t exclude you from having to deal with these pesky little guys!

If you are consistently finding raccoons in or around your garage, yard, or anywhere you store your trash, it is almost certainly because they’ve turned your garbage can into an all-you-can-eat buffet.

There are a few things you can do to avoid having these unwelcome dinner guests return night after night.

Interestingly, raccoons can eat garbage and don’t get sick. You can read more about raccoons and their trash snacks here.

Use an Animal Repellent 

Animal repellents can come in a variety of brands, substances, and scents. There are also a ton of at-home options you can use if you don’t feel like buying one at the store. 

Sprinkling a bit of ammonia on the lid of your trash can every night can help keep raccoons away from your trash. While it won’t smell nice (ammonia is typically known to smell like cat pee- yuck!), it will keep you from having to pick up scattered trash every morning!

Get a Lock on Your Trash Can

Find a trashcan that comes with a locking lid, or simply make one yourself using a bungee cord or ratchet strap. Just secure on both ends to the can itself, and stretch tightly and securely over the lid. 

If you don’t feel confident in your DIY trashcan lock abilities, you can purchase something like the Critter Clip. This device consists of pre-made buckles that are specifically designed to keep raccoons- and their nimble hands- out! 

Get an Alarm or Motion Sensor Light

So, we’ve talked in-depth at this point about how raccoons are skittish- meaning they hate loud noises. And they’re nocturnal- meaning they typically don’t come out during the daytime. 

For these reasons, investing in a noisemaker or motion sensor light is a great way to ensure your trash area stays raccoon-free. Simple noisemakers like wind chimes will even sometimes do the trick.

What Eats Raccoons?

Well, it seems only natural that since we’ve talked about the food raccoons eat; we should discuss next what animals eat raccoons!

Aside from alligators, which we’ve already discussed, raccoons have a plethora of natural predators. Because they are nocturnal, the majority of their predators are nocturnal as well. This includes bobcats, coyotes, and owls of various types.

As far as daytime predators go, snakes are the biggest threat to raccoons. While a snake can’t-and won’t- typically take on a fully grown raccoon, they will prey on babies, particularly when they are left unattended while the mother goes out foraging for food. 

Do Raccoons Live in Packs?

Raccoons are typically considered solitary creatures. Like many wild animals, they prefer to be alone, and if they encounter a fellow raccoon, typically near a readily available food source, they will fight over it. 

The only time you will find raccoons together is if you happen to stumble across a mother raccoon with babies. And if that’s the case, make sure you back away quickly- mother raccoons will go to great lengths to protect their young, and won’t hesitate to give you a hearty scratch or bite! 

That’s A Wrap!

When you get down to it, raccoons are actually pretty interesting creatures! 

While they may be pests, they are also surprisingly smart and resourceful little animals. Like cats, owls, and wolves, they are part of the ranks of nocturnal beasts and are typically not found outside during the daytime. 

To recap, the three main reasons why you might be seeing a raccoon out during the day include:

  • Pregnant or nursing
  • Fear
  • Nearby open food source

While they may be out because of one of the reasons we’ve listed above, if you are ever wondering what the raccoon that sniffs around the dumpster near your house is doing during the day, wonder no further. Most likely, it’s curled up in its den; getting some much-needed beauty sleep! 

References

Gehrt, S. D., & Spencer, D. L. (1990). Raccoon Denning Behavior in Eastern Kansas as Determined from Radio-Telemetry. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science (1903-), 93(3/4), 71–78.

Hauver, S. A. (2008). Genetic determinants of raccoon social behavior in a highly urbanized environment [Master’s thesis, Ohio State University]. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center.

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