It’s a common myth that a skunk seen during the day is sick or has rabies. It’s true that skunks are mostly nocturnal, but they might be out during the day for many different reasons.
A skunk that is alert, responsive and behaving normally during the day is probably fine. Skunks 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 skunks are also commonly seen outside during the day.
What’s not normal
It is another myth that skunks out during the day will be tired or disoriented and appear confused because they are nocturnal. It is never normal for an adult skunk to show symptoms like loss of balance, difficulty walking or lethargy. If you see a skunk behaving this way, or a skunk 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, and it has affected skunks as well. 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.