It’s a common myth that a raccoon walking around during the day is sick or has rabies. It’s true that raccoons are mostly nocturnal, but they can be active during the day for many different reasons.
A raccoon that is alert, responsive and behaving normally during the day is probably fine. Raccoons might come out during the day if there is a food source available at a particular time, if they have been frightened out of their daytime sleeping spot, or if there is high competition in the area at night from other nocturnal animals. Baby raccoons are also commonly seen outside during the day, and mother raccoons might be out looking for food during the day.
What’s not normal
It is another myth that a raccoon out during the day will be weak or disoriented because it is tired. It is never normal for an adult raccoon to show symptoms like loss of balance, difficulty walking, or lethargy. If you see a raccoon behaving this way, or a raccoon who is obviously bleeding or injured, contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
Ontario was lucky enough to go almost 10 years without a single case of rabies in raccoons. Sadly, in 2015 an outbreak of raccoon rabies was reported in the city of Hamilton and surrounding areas. There have been no positive cases in the city of Toronto to date. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has implemented an aggressive vaccine baiting program to keep the disease under control. Please see their page on rabies in wildlife for more information.
One disease that we do see regularly in raccoons is Canine Distemper Virus. Please see our page for more information.