Here’s Where Raccoons Really Go and Live During the Day

Raccoon in backyard

Unless you live in a desert state like New Mexico or Utah, you will find raccoons throughout the United States in rural, suburban, and urban areas. You can even find them in all five boroughs of New York City! In all these places where raccoons are, just where do they go and during the day and live?

During the day, raccoons find shelter in all environments. In urban areas, raccoons sleep in abandoned cars, dumpsters, and sewer drains, but hide in attics, garages, and underneath decks in suburban areas. In the wilderness, they live sleep in tree hollows, under rocks, and vacant animal dens.

Since their curious nature fuels them, you will find them everywhere and in anything. The rest of this article will tell you all about the places they live during the day, as well as what raccoons get up to at night. Let’s get to it!

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Where Do Raccoons Live During the Day? 

The raccoon, is a medium-sized mammal native to North America.

From wild meadows to city streets, a raccoon can find a place to live just about anywhere they deem a good place to hide. They are one of the few animals that have benefited from the growing human population. 

As you know, raccoons thrive in cities and have become a problem in many of them. A study released by the Journal of Wildlife Management explains that city raccoons are master adapters, which means urban areas now have the highest density and population of them. These city-dwellers find cubby holes in the sewer drains, dumpsters, abandoned vehicles, and even rooftops! 

They are everywhere in the suburbs because they love the mix of urban and rural environments. This includes human structures like attics, decks, chimneys, and gardens. Don’t forget your garbage bins! 

Rural areas have the smallest population and density of raccoons, but this does not mean you have no chance of finding one in your barn or shed. In their natural habitat, they stay close to water sources and will burrow under rocks, in tree hollows, underneath fallen logs, and other animals’ dens.

Where Do Raccoons Go During the Day? 

If raccoons venture out during the day, it could be for several reasons. Pregnant or nursing raccoons need extra food, some get scared out of their dens, and others are close to a food source and simply feel like having a midday snack. 

As for where they go, the spooked raccoons who flew the coop will find a new shelter. They do not enjoy being seen, so they will instantly look for a hiding spot, even if it’s just until nighttime.  

Other raccoons will come out of hiding if they are near a water source. They love to dunk sizeable pieces of food in water before eating it because they have narrow and delicate throats. Some people think it’s because they are washing their food, but that makes little sense as raccoons love to eat rotting food and carrion. It’s actually one of the many unique ways that raccoons use their paws.

If there is a food source close by, these masked critters might sneak out for bites in between naps if it’s open for the taking and does not take a lot of energy or danger to get to. 

Where Do Raccoons Go at Night? 

At night, raccoons find their way into all sorts of things. They are roguish and unbelievably brave. They get themselves into a lot of trouble. 

It’s during this time they find food, shelter, and mates. Even though they cannot see very well in the dark, raccoons can easily get around using their paws to feel around them. For the most part, they spend all of their time at night (and a lot of times during the day) on the hunt for food. 

These masked critters are omnivores and eat a wide variety of things like nuts, berries, insects, bird eggs, rodents, frogs, turtles, leftover food, and any type of carrion. Since they are opportunistic eaters, they will take just about anything they get their little hands on. You might see them hitting up some roadkill or rooting through your garden.

If you’re interested in learning more about their specific places of shelter, you can read our guide on the areas where raccoons nest here.

Urban vs. Rural Raccoons 

There is a significant difference between city raccoons and their country cousins: their intelligence. A researcher named Suzanne MacDonald at York University conducted a study on urban raccoons and found them to be much more intelligent than rural ones because they face a wider range of obstacles. 

In one of her experiments, she placed a raccoon before a garbage can with a lid on it. An overwhelming amount of city raccoons could get the lid off while nearly every country raccoon failed.  

If you are out in the country surrounded by wilderness, then you may find it is easier to seal up things from raccoons. If you are in an urban area, you might have more trouble keeping them away from garbage cans and other places. 

Do Raccoons Come Out During the Day? 

Raccoons are nocturnal, but you may find one out and about in the sunshine! My other article, Here’s What Raccoons Actually Do During The Daytime explains exactly what these critters get up to during the day (if they are not sleeping). They are most active at dusk and dawn.

There is a popular myth that says if raccoons come out during the day, then they have rabies, but it is most likely not the case. 

Do not let this fool you though—raccoons make up 30% of rabies cases in the United States every year according to the CDC which in retrospective makes it quite rare and statistically low.

What To Do if You See a Raccoon Outside During The Day

These masked creatures are cute, but we can all agree we are not trying to get close to them. Luckily, raccoons will usually run off when they see you unless they are caught in a dumpster or trash bin and have no way out.

If they are stuck in something, give them something to climb up so they can get out. You can also call animal control to get them out.

If you come face to face with a raccoon and it is not scurrying away, make yourself look bigger. If it comes closer or charges at you, make a loud sound, wave your arms, or spray water at it. 

Teach your kids raccoons can be dangerous and to stay away from them. They should also know to make themselves look bigger and yell loudly if they stumble upon one.

Never approach a raccoon. Regardless of how cute they are, they can still do serious damage. This is especially important if the animal seems confused or is stumbling around. In that case, you should call a wildlife professional to tend to it so it does not die or possibly get other raccoons sick. 

How Can I Tell If a Raccoon Is in My House The Daytime? 

Cute mischievous raccoon playing with toilet paper on floor indoors

You can tell if there is a raccoon in your house in a few ways. If you think they are using a specific entryway, stuff it with newspaper. Check back in a couple of days and if the newspaper has been pushed aside, you will know something has gone through there. 

Other signs of a raccoon infestation are overturned trash cans, scratching sounds, strange animal noises, droppings, and tracks. 

They like to use only one spot for their waste, so one area of it is a good indicator of raccoons specifically. They are tubular-shaped and brown or black. Unfortunately, a lot of animals have similar-looking waste, so you will have to look for other signs. 

Their footprints are less than 4 inches in size and they kind of look like tiny human hands. Cute and easy to identify. They are asymmetrical with longer toes in the back and will usually lead in a diagonal direction.

As for the noises, scientists estimate raccoons can make up to 50 distinct sounds. This means they will be pretty hard to identify until you notice the differing noises. My other article, Sounds That Raccoons Make And Why They Make Them, goes in-depth with seven of the more popular sounds you will hear from these critters. 

What Do I Do If There’s a Raccoon in My House? 

If you come face to face with one in the house, overcome your shock and stay calm. How did they get in there?

Raccoons have extremely dexterous paws that allow them to open doors in some instances. You can read our article on how raccoons open doors and locks which explains how they might have gotten inside more in-depth.

However they got in, leave the entrance open and close any doors leading anywhere but outside. Now you can either wait for the raccoon to make its way outside, or call a professional

If there is one in your house and you cannot see them, make the area annoying for the raccoon using sight, sound, and smell. You should only do this at night, though, because raccoons are nocturnal and will need darkness to find a new home without getting disoriented or attacked by predators. 

For upsetting their sense of sight, light up the room as much as possible. Even better if you use a flashing light. They will be uncomfortable with the new lack of hiding spots. 

To annoy raccoons using sound, crank up a radio and leave it in the attic, garage, or whatever room you think they are in. This will confuse them and make them run away. 

Finally, put a bowl of apple cider vinegar or any other intense smell in the cubbyhole or area they are in. You can also use raccoon eviction fluid, which we talk about in my other article: Raccoon Eviction Fluid, Why It Works And How To Use It.

Using the combination of three senses against them, the raccoons in your house will be unable to sleep or be comfortable and will find shelter somewhere else.  

In any case, the best thing to do is to call animal control. Use our nationwide pest control service to get connected to a wildlife professional!

So hey, they might destroy your garden beds, but at least other pest problems will be under control! 

How to Keep Raccoons Away 

Raccoon in backyard at Vancouver Canada

There are several things you should do to keep raccoons from making their home inside yours.  

First, you’ll want to get rid of or clean up any food sources to keep raccoons away. You’ll also want to seal up trash containers, avoiding using fats and oils in compost, bringing in outdoor pet food, and keeping your chickens in a sealed pen. 

Never feed a raccoon! This goes without saying. If you give a raccoon a treat, it’ll know your area has food and will come back. 

Seal up gaps in your home by using wire mesh to keep raccoons from getting under your deck and porch and into your attic and chimney. Don’t forget to secure pet doors! 

Spray raccoon repellent in the area. For more information, check out Best Raccoon Repellents (And How To Use Them). It will tell you everything you need to know about using repellent effectively.

Additionally, raccoons are quite sensitive to certain scents. You can read our guide on using the scents that raccoons hate here!

That’s all we’ve got!

So now you know everything about what raccoons get up to and how to react when you see one.

To recap where raccoons live and go during the day:

  • Raccoons are nocturnal, but are most active at dawn and dusk 
  • They will find a home anywhere that keeps them hidden and close to food sources 
  • They will come out during the day if they need to find food or shelter  
  • They are great pest controllers but can cause damage to homes and gardens 
  • Urban raccoons are much smarter than rural ones 
  • Keep raccoons away from your home by removing food sources, sealing up gaps, and spraying raccoon repellent 

No matter where you live (unless it’s in a desert or a certain part of the Rockies) you’re probably neighbors with a raccoon. Not only are they trash bandits, but they can also rip up roof tiles, burrow into insulation, and post up underneath your porch.  

Although they are destructive creatures, raccoons can keep pest populations down and clean up animal carcasses. Luckily, we can coexist with them easily by avoiding them and eliminating ourselves and our homes as food sources. Hopefully, from now on, we will only see their cuteness from far away. 

References 

H. B. Davis. “The Raccoon: A Study in Animal Intelligence.” The American Journal of Psychology, vol. 18, no. 4, University of Illinois Press (1907): 447–89. 

Gross, Justin, et al. “Raccoon use of the urban matrix in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area, Maryland.” Urban Ecosystems 15.3 (2012): 667-682. 

Prange, Suzanne, Stanley D. Gehrt, and Ernie P. Wiggers. “Demographic factors contributing to high raccoon densities in urban landscapes.” The Journal of wildlife management (2003): 324-333. 

Riley, Seth PD, John Hadidian, and David A. Manski. “Population density, survival, and rabies in raccoons in an urban national park.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 76.6 (1998): 1153-1164. 

Vantassel, Stephen, et al. “Controlling Raccoon and Opossum Damage.” UNL Wildlife Management, University of Nebraska Lincoln, (2007). 

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