Raccoons during the daytime
August 14, 2010 10:04 PM   Subscribe

Raccoons during the daytime -- dangerous?

I was walking a hiking trail today and spotted a raccoon about 20 feet in front of me. The strange thing was that it was noon, bright and sunny. I've never seen a raccoon at this time of day. It was just walking here and there sniffing the shrubs. At one point it turned over on its back in some loose dirt and kind of acted playful. It looked cute even.

Or is this behavior a sign of rabies? Is just being out during the day a sign of rabies? He never looked at me (I think a dog would have easily noticed me at that distance). I turned and walked in the opposite direction. Saw no one coming in either direction to warn or discuss the situation with.

Just curious if anyone has any thoughts on the situation. Thanks!
posted by whiskeyspider to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total)
I don't think rabies is involved.

But any wild animal can be dangerous. At a range of 20 feet you don't need to be paranoid, but I'd back away slowly.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:10 PM on August 14, 2010

Best answer: Raccoons don't give a fig about humans unless they're being chased with sticks. We had some at our place who'd only clear out of our way if we came directly at them with a rake. Even then they didn't leave the area until chased.

No idea on what rabies behaviour would look like, but I wouldn't be surprised by what you describe; we had to get quite close to the ones in our yard before they noticed us. And according to this page, they are not always nocturnal.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:12 PM on August 14, 2010

That last paragraph is ambiguous; I don't mean to imply that I think it's rabies - the opposite, in fact. It's not surprising that they didn't react to you. Bleah, nighty night before I start making even less sense.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:16 PM on August 14, 2010

Raccoons are opportunistic and very flexible about, well, anything. What they eat, when they eat, where they eat, and so forth. They tend to ignore most other animals. I see them walk right past cats like the cats were potted plants. Some of them are not very shy around people, at all. They will amble right into the kitchen if I leave the door open while I am moving stuff in and out of the house. And then they'll look at me, like "Hey, 'sup? Nice place." Some are confident enough to show up with their babies.

They're a little more shy out in the woods, but that hasn't stopped one, in a non-park area, from walking right up to me while I was eating lunch and trilling at me until I gave up some grapes.

Raccoons just don't seem all that scared of much.
posted by adipocere at 10:25 PM on August 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

The younger ones born in Spring are out on their own this time of year. Some of them haven't learned "Two Legs Bad" yet.

I had to hose one off of my roof the other day after he spent the afternoon following me around as I worked in the garden. He was real cute, but giving them the wrong idea about people is bad for everyone.
posted by Aquaman at 10:27 PM on August 14, 2010

Raccoons generally do not give a shit about humans. Most of them have had some experience with them, and they know you won't mess with them. You generally have to actually come close and threaten them with a stick or shovel or something to get them to even move on.
posted by sanka at 10:54 PM on August 14, 2010

Nthing what everyone else has said, raccoons are very, very acclimated to humans at this point, and they aren't always nocturnal at all; I had one that came up to my back porch in DC every morning about ten (I think he knew it drove my cats nuts!). Opossums at least have the courtesy to amble away when you open the door, not coons. But any "friendly" mammal should be avoided like a cliche. (that probably includes dogs and cats, but I always forget that unless I'm in the deep woods.)
posted by Some1 at 11:12 PM on August 14, 2010

We have lots of raccoons in my area. I've seen some during the day and walked within about 5 feet of one before I noticed it. It didn't even look up at me as it was digging through the dumpster that I was about to toss trash in. When I threw the bag in it looked at me, but then went back to it's scrounging.

I guess if it'd launched itself at me it could have damaged me, but it seemed to busy to bother with me. It was on the back right corner of the dumpster and I tossed my trash in the front left part. I just ignored it and went about my business, it did the same. If the dumpster had had a lid I would have closed it to discourage any more visitors, but it didn't so I couldn't.

I basically treat them the same as I do neighborhood stray cats. Lots of ignoring, no fear.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:31 PM on August 14, 2010

They do not harm you.
posted by watercarrier at 12:43 AM on August 15, 2010

But you do not want to run into a racoon with rabies. TAL ran a story about a woman who did.


(Sorry-couldn't use the link button in my iPhone)

I always thought the danger in running into an animal with rabies was that you could get rabies. Too many public service announcements as a kid. The danger about a rabid animal is that the animal is ruthlessly aggressive and, well, dangerous.

TAL ran their story about a rabid racoon in their Halloween Episode. Please listen to it.
posted by vitabellosi at 2:36 AM on August 15, 2010

Response by poster: That TAL life episode is exactly what popped into my head when I saw him. (Wish I had never heard that story.) Sounds like I was being overly cautious though. My main concern was that it was the middle of the day -- I thought raccoons only came out at night -- otherwise, I wouldn't have been hesitant to walk past him.
posted by whiskeyspider at 7:27 AM on August 15, 2010

Best answer: Adult raccoons do typically stay under cover during the day and do most of their foraging at night. HOWEVER, female raccoons with young ones to feed will forage during the day. Also, in less populated areas (like your hiking tail, perhaps) a healthy adult may wander around during daylight hours.
posted by rhartong at 8:03 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Where I grew up (rural CT), we used to have local police come to the school to talk to us about important/dangerous things they thought we should know about... where most kids probably got the "don't do drugs" talk, we got the "stay the hell away from raccoons during the day" talk. And with good cause--I knew of them being out in the day exactly twice. The first was when one of them attacked my grandmother, prompting six months of skin grafts and a nasty set of rabies shots. The second was a family of them stumbling around drunkenly in the backyard. My father, being the militiaman type that he is, had spent his entire life preparing for just that moment, and went after them with a .308 caliber rifle he'd kept around for just such an occasion. He hit one of them cleanly in the shoulder/chest, leaving a hole big enough that he claimed to have seen daylight through it, and the thing turned and chased him back into the house.

My point here is, even if they're kind of cute and will chirp at you for grapes, raccoons are some of the meanest bastards you'll ever meet (think a pissed-off housecat in a whirling dervish of teeth and claws, only four times as big), and if one is rabid, it's nigh-onto impossible to take one down without getting seriously injured yourself. The one you're describing doesn't sound like it has any of the classic rabies symptoms, but you want to keep some distance from them even if they're not sick.
posted by Mayor West at 4:30 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

My folks had one in their yard during the day a couple months ago. They talked to the local animal control guy, and he said they're more likely to have distemper than rabies, and that it can be transmitted to dogs.

Also, raccoons killed one of my chickens a week ago. Bastards.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:48 PM on August 16, 2010

Sounds like I was being overly cautious though. My main concern was that it was the middle of the day -

It's not overly cautious just because this racoon wasn't rabid -- that's the thing about being cautious, you take the same precautions every time because you don't know when it's needed.


Yeah -- that TAL story really made me reconsider romantic notions of nature.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:30 AM on August 17, 2010

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