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Ohio Town Terrorized by Zombie-Like Raccoons

Police in Youngstown, Ohio, have received over a dozen reports of zombie-like raccoons coming out in the daytime, flashing their teeth and just falling on their backs for no apparent reason.

Youngstown has always had a raccoon population, but the furry mammals usually stayed out of people’s way, only coming out at night to search through their trash cans for food. However, last month, some of the raccoons started acting really strange. They would come out in broad daylight, sometimes walking up all the way to people’s front doors, flash their sharp teeth in a threatening manner and then fall on their back and enter a comatose-like state. Over the past three weeks, such raccoons came to be known as “zombie raccoons”.

Photo: Tobias Mercer/Wikimedia Commons

72-year-old Robert Coggeshall was one of the first people to notice the raccoons’ bizarre behaviour. He was playing with his dog in the yard one day, when he saw a raccoon coming his way. That alone was very strange, as the reclusive mammals don’t really come out during the daytime, but this one was coming straight for him, so he and the dog went inside the house. The raccoon came up all the way to his door, and then things got really weird.

“He would stand up on his hind legs, which I’ve never seen a raccoon do before, and he would show his teeth and then he would fall over backward and go into almost a comatose condition,” Coggeshall told local news station WKBN. “He’d come out of it, walk around and then he’d do the same thing again, get on his feet and show his teeth.”

Coggeshall, a wildlife photographer and naturalist told the Washington Post that the raccoon repeated the bizarre routine over and over again, for two hours. At one point, he grabbed his camera and started taking photos of it, some of which he later posted on Facebook.

Youngstown police told WKBN that they have received at least 14 similar reports in the past three weeks, with most of the calls coming during the daytime.

Although wildlife experts are yet to offer an official explanation for the raccoons’ bizarre behaviour, some experts believe that they are likely infected with a disease called distemper. A relative of the human measles virus, this disease usually infects unvaccinated dogs but it is also transmissible to foxes, coyotes and skunks. In 2003, the first tiger reported to be infected with distemper was spotted wondering into the Russian town of Pokrovka. It just sat down on the pavement, completely ignoring everything around it.

Early symptoms associated with distemper include high fever and watery discharges from the nose and mouth, but in the later stages, the virus starts to affect the animal’s nervous system, causing attacks of hysteria, seizures and fits. the disease is not transmissible to humans.

 

As news of “zombie raccoons” in Youngstown started spreading online, the animal control service in Cook County, Illinois, reported a similar outbreak of their own, also attributed to distemper.

“What you are most impressed with is these animals walking extremely slowly, and not seeming to care about their surroundings,” Donna Alexander, administrator for Cook County Animal & Rabies Control, told CBS Chicago. “They are not showing any fear of humans. They are walking around during the daytime. Sometimes they lie down, even though they are completely awake.”

 

There is currently no known cure for distemper, so in order to keep the virus from spreading, infected animals need to be trapped and put down.

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