Are Daytime-Active Raccoons Infected With Rabies?

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Although there IS a chance that a daytime-active raccoon could be infected with the rabies virus, the illness is probably not the root cause of what is keeping this animal up when it is meant to be sleeping. In fact, animals just like raccoons — normally nocturnal — are becoming active more and more during the day, when we expect them to be sleeping.

In reality, there are a lot of things that are probably encouraging these animals to stay awake more during the day. They're encroaching more and more into human territories, rather than rural ones, and this means that they'll need to get used to a lot more noise and interference. It is not crazy to think that raccoons would be slightly lighter sleeps in these areas, a skill developed, perhaps, to enable them to wake up and scurry away whenever they needed to? They have adapted and evolved to go as far as open windows with their dextrous paws, so this is a clearly not an animal worthy of underestimation.

There is more food in areas that contain large numbers of people, and food is the one thing pretty much guaranteed to wake these scavengers up when nothing else will. Just like squirrels, raccoons are known to stash or hoard food, so all the time a good and plentiful source of food is on offer, the animal will just keep taking from it, again and again, until it has dried out or you shoo it away; whichever comes first.

Other Rabies Symptoms in Raccoons:
If you believe a raccoon to be rabid, you should move away as soon as you can, and ensure that no other people, children or adults, as well as pets, don't get close enough to get bitten. You should also call for help immediately — wildlife rehabilitators or local city/county animal services.

The earliest signs that a raccoon will display if it has rabies include slight disorientation, a general lethargic look about it, moving without a sense of direction or purpose, and a generally confused appearance. It might not run away when you smack your hands or call out, something a healthy raccoon will usually do. (Although, not always. It is more common for raccoons to walk towards people if those people have food now.)

This will continue into a more advanced form of the disease, which will see the animal becoming more and more vocal — chattering growling, shrieking, screaming, etc. You will also hear sounds that you aren't sure are actually coming from the raccoon. They ARE coming from the raccoon. It is quite common for rabies-infected raccoons to make sounds that aren't raccoon-like at all.

The back legs of the raccoon will give way and become seemingly paralyzed as the disease progresses even further, and the animal may even start foaming at the mouth. These are all considered to be quite late stages and symptoms of the disease, but should indicate an absolute must to get away from the animal. Attempting to make a lot of noise, bash your hands together, or scare the animal away will not work. It no longer experiences fear in quite the same way, so is likely to run towards you in a rabid fashion, rather than backing away timidly, as you would expect.

The Biggest Concern:
Although life seems pretty bad as it is, as far as rabies and raccoons are concerned, the situation still has enough room to get just a little bit worse. Raccoons that look very fit and healthy, perhaps even friendly towards humans, can also be infected with the rabies virus, and that animal doesn't need to attack you in any way for the virus to be spread.

Raccoons can have a dormant or sleep form of the disease for up to two months (and, in some cases, studies have shown even longer than that), which means no symptoms, but still the possibility of disease transmission.

The disease is present in the saliva of the animal, which means that a bite breaking through your skin and into your blood stream is definitely going to be a very big cause for concern. Even if the animal scratches you, however, you could still be at risk. Raccoons regularly lick their paws and claws, and if one of the claws that penetrates your skin has saliva on it, it could also have the virus on it.

For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How much does raccoon removal cost? - get the lowdown on prices.
How to get rid of raccoons - my main raccoon removal info guide.
Example raccoon trapping photographs - get do-it-yourself ideas.
Raccoon job blog - learn from great examples of raccoon jobs I've done.
Raccoons in the attic - what to do to solve the problem.

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