Zombie raccoons have been freaking out residents of Youngstown, Ohio, with the local police responding to more than a dozen such cases over the past couple of weeks.
A local veterinarian, meanwhile, attributed the bizarre behavior of the animals to a certain disease. The suggested reason for the zombie raccoons, however, was not the dreaded rabies as many might think.
Zombie Raccoons Invade Youngstown, Ohio
In March, Youngstown police have received at least 14 reports of raccoons exhibiting zombie-like behavior. Most of the incidents involving the zombie raccoons, strangely, happened during the daytime, when raccoons are nocturnal creatures.
One of the residents who reported a sighting of a zombie raccoon was Robert Coggeshall. He was out in his yard with his dogs when a raccoon appeared, interrupting their playtime.
Coggeshall let his dogs back in the house, but the raccoon followed them to the door. That was when things became really strange, as the raccoon stood up on its hind legs and showed its teeth. The raccoon then fell backward and looked like it was in comatose condition.
The Youngstown resident tried scaring the raccoon away, but it did not budge. After a while, it would come out of its trance, walk around, and then again stand on its hind legs, show its teeth, and fall down.
Other run-ins with the strange behavior revealed that the other zombie raccoons were also not scared away by loud noises and big movements.
Distemper, Not Rabies, Gave Rise To Weird Raccoons
Bark Mobile Pet Vet's Margee O'Donnell-Foust, a veterinarian in Youngstown, believes that a disease is causing the rise of zombie raccoons.
It is easy for people to think that rabies is the culprit, especially with the notoriety of rabid raccoons. There were also recent reports of a possibly rabid coyote attacking a nine-year-old girl outside her home in North Carolina and a pair of confirmed rabid coyotes in the suburbs of New York City. However, according to O'Donnell-Foust, distemper, not rabies, is the culprit for the strange raccoon behavior.
Distemper is a contagious disease that carries symptoms such as respiratory issues, digestive problems, and seizures. The disease is often passed on through inhalation, but any kind of contact with an infected animal may be considered dangerous.
O'Donnell-Foust added that while distemper could not be passed on to humans, dogs are at risk of contacting the illness. As such, Ohio residents are advised to update the vaccinations of their dogs to protect against the virus.