Dozens of raccoons believed to have exhibited zombie-like behavior have been found dead in New York's Central Park over the past month, raising concern among officials and citizens.
This is not the first time that zombie raccoons have been reported. What is happening to the raccoons, and what should humans do when they encounter one in Central Park?
Dead 'Zombie' Raccoons In New York's Central Park
More than two dozen raccoons have been found dead in New York's Central Park since June 24, killed by a viral outbreak that is causing the animals to display zombie-like behavior. The latest dead raccoon was found in the morning of July 21, at the corner of East 106th St. and East Drive.
Some park officials have witnessed weird behavior in the raccoons.
"They looked like they were circulating, wandering, having spasms," said New York Health Department assistant director Dr. Sally Slavinski. "Some of the raccoons had some sort of nasal discharge."
Raccoons have become an attraction in Central Park over recent years, with some people offering them food and even taking selfies with them. However, with the animals acting like zombies, people have been advised to stay away from the raccoons for now.
What Is Happening With The Raccoons?
The zombie raccoons are called that not because they came back from the dead, but because of their strange behavior. This is not the first time that incidents of zombie raccoons have been reported though.
The weird behavior of the raccoons has been attributed to the canine distemper virus. Of the 26 dead raccoons found in Central Park over the past month, two have tested positive for the virus. The other 24 were also believed to be infected due to close proximity of their deaths in terms of time and location.
Raccoon distemper signs include acting tame or confused then losing their coordination, suddenly dropping into unconsciousness, and at times, death. Raccoons infected with the virus may also show aggressive behavior.
Humans are not affected by the virus, but it may latch on to dogs, especially those who have not received distemper immunization. Distemper spreads to other animals through contact with infected urine, feces, saliva, or respiratory discharge, so it might not be a good idea to take dogs on walks in Central Park right now.
Raccoons Carry Diseases: Rabies Too
Raccoons are not only being reported to be carriers of the canine distemper virus, as there have also been incidents when the animals have tested positive for rabies.