Raccoons are fascinating creatures, who often set up home near humans. They’re most active at dawn and dusk – but where do raccoons go during the day?
That’s what we’re here to find out! We’ll learn more about raccoons’ habits and habitats along the way. And we’ll check out some other interesting facts about raccoons too.
Ready to find out where raccoons hang out during the daylight hours? Step this way!
What do raccoons do during the daytime?
There are actually three different species of raccoon. There’s only one that’s found in the USA, though, and that has the scientific name Procyon lotor.
The raccoon is mostly either nocturnal or crepuscular. In other words, it tends to sleep during the day, and is more active at night (nocturnal) or around dawn and dusk (crepuscular).
That’s not a hard and fast rule, though. Some raccoons will be out and about during the day. There can be a couple of reasons for this:
- It’s a female raccoon who’s pregnant or nursing. Momma raccoons need more food than usual, so foraging at night isn’t always sufficient. If you spot a raccoon looking for food during the day, there’s a good chance it’s an expectant mother, or already has kits.
- The raccoon has been frightened by a predator. A raccoon out and about during the day may have been startled and fled its den.
Let’s put one myth to bed, though: a raccoon being out in the daytime doesn’t indicate that it has rabies.
Despite the exceptions, most raccoons will be trying to get some shut-eye during the daylight hours. That means they need to bed down somewhere safe where they won’t be disturbed. So where on earth do they go?
The answer to that depends on the raccoon’s location and circumstances. Let’s find out more.
Where Do Raccoons Go During the Day?
1. Urban and suburban raccoons
Raccoons are extremely successful in environments with people nearby. They’re omnivores, meaning they’ll eat both plants and animals. And they’re opportunistic feeders, foraging more often than hunting.
The presence of humans almost always means food! That can take the form of trash cans, pet food left outside, birdfeed, or any food that’s left unsecured.
As a result, urban and suburban raccoons usually do very well. An adult will weigh an average of 60 pounds. That’s twice as heavy as their cousins living in the wild.
The urban environment also provides a range of different options for raccoons to take shelter in during the day. They can make dens in anything from abandoned cars to dumpsters or sewer drains. They also like the quiet, dark and secluded crawl spaces beneath buildings.
You’ll even find raccoons in attics, chimney and window wells!
2. Wild raccoons
A safe place to rest during the daytime is every bit as important for wild raccoons. They will curl up in a hollow log, in a hollow tree trunk, or burrow under a rock.
They don’t build their own dens, but they will make use of dens that have been abandoned by other animals.
They’re good climbers too, and will occasionally sleep in trees.
3. Pet raccoons
Although it’s rare, some people do make pets of raccoons. And domesticated animals will have the luxury of a safe space provided for them by their humans. We’ve seen one little cutie settled down on his very own tartan blanket!
If you’re considering keeping a raccoon as a pet, be aware that this is only legal in 16 states. And in many of those, there are rules about ownership – for example, not bringing in raccoons from outside the state boundary.
And while raccoons can be entertaining companions, they do come with a lot of challenges. They need lots of space to roam. They can be feisty and unpredictable. And managing their diet and health can be difficult.
So make sure you do your research very carefully before committing to caring for a raccoon as a pet. A good way to do this is to spend time at a wildlife rehabilitation center, so you can get a good idea of the reality of caring for raccoons.
Raccoons’ sleeping habits
Raccoons, especially male raccoons, are usually solitary animals. But females and their kits will often share a den and sleep together. That also allows them to share their body heat in cold temperatures.
And when the mercury falls, even males may share a den. They’ve even been known to bed down next to skunks in winter!
Racoons don’t, though, go into true hibernation in the winter months. They will instead drastically reduce their activity levels, entering a state known as “torpor”. That allows them to sleep for several weeks at a time, conserving their energy.
When temperatures rise slightly, they’ll emerge from the den to find water and food.
How far do raccoons wander?
A raccoon will typically keep to what it considers its territory, known as its “home range”. Just how big an area this covers depends on several factors: the age of the raccoon, its size, and its location. A home range can be as small as a single square mile, or as large as 18 square miles.
Generally speaking, urban raccoons will have a smaller home range than those in rural areas. That’s because food supplies are usually more plentiful in towns and cities, so the raccoons don’t have to roam so far.
They’ll usually have multiple dens across their home range – a single raccoon may have as many as a dozen. They may leave one or more of these on a temporary basis, but will often return later.
This peripatetic existence helps them to take advantage of different sources of food. And it also helps prevent predators from tracking them down.
The exception to this lifestyle is female raccoons with young kits. The mother will stay in the same den with her babies until they’re old enough to leave. This is usually at about eight or nine weeks of age.
And when female kits have matured, they’ll usually return to the den where they were born to have their own babies.
Interesting raccoon facts
So now you know where raccoons go during the day! Let’s look at few other interesting facts about raccoons.
They appear to wash their food – but they don’t really
Raccoons have a characteristic approach to feeding. They appear to dunk their food in water before eating it. This habit is reflected in their Latin name – “lotor” means “one who washes”.
Scientists have studied raccoons to try to find out what’s behind this. Theories included that they were, indeed, washing their food; or that raccoons lacked salivary glands, so the water helped the food slide down more easily.
In fact, neither of these are true. It turns out that water helps improve the sensitivity of raccoons’ paws. They use these to get a better sense of their food before they eat it – a bit like a human taking a big sniff before their first bite.
They can open doors
Raccoons are remarkably dexterous animals. While their thumbs aren’t opposable, like those of humans, they are very agile. That allows them to open cannisters, trash can lids, and even doors!
That means that finding ways to fully raccoon-proof your property can be very challenging.
Urban raccoons are smarter than their country cousins
All raccoons have a deserved reputation for being smart and adaptable. But the particular challenges and opportunities of living near humans seems to have further sharpened the wits of urban raccoons.
In one study, both urban and rural raccoons were presented with trash cans with their lids on properly. Almost all the urban raccoons successfully managed to remove the lids. Almost all of the raccoons from rural areas, however, failed.
Some raccoons can live into their teens
Most raccoons are short-lived, dying before they reach their second birthday. The main causes of death are hunting or trapping by humans, collisions with vehicles, and malnutrition.
If a raccoon survives to maturity, its average lifespan is five years. Some individuals, though, live for much longer. And they’ve been known to live for up to 16 years in the wild.
There are three main species of raccoon
As we’ve seen the raccoon that’s found in the US is the common raccoon, Procyon lotor. The other main species are Procyon cancivorous – the crab-eating raccoon – and Procyon pygmaeus, known as the Cozumel or pygmy raccoon.
Crab-eating raccoons have shorter hair than common raccoons and are found in Costa Rica and parts of South America.
The Cozumel raccoon takes its name from the island off the east coast of Mexico where it’s found. It has a smaller head and body than the common raccoon, and its tail has a hint of yellow.
Where do raccoons go during the day? A quickfire summary
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about where raccoons go during the day! Day time is snoozing time for these furry critters. And whether they live in the town or the wild, they need a quiet and safe space to sleep.
In urban areas, that can be anything from a chimney to an abandoned car. In rural locations, it may be a hollow log, or beneath a rock. And raccoons will usually have a number of different den sites scattered across their territory.