Police in Ohio are investigating reports of “zombie raccoons” that have been spotted by more than a dozen people in the Youngstown area.
Calls placed to police in Youngstown described the raccoons as behaving strangely—the nocturnal animals were appearing in daylight, baring their teeth, standing on their hind legs, and collapsing with apparent lethargy before repeating the same behaviour.
Residents also describe the raccoons as being fearless in the face of things that would usually frighten them, such as loud noises, WKBN reported.
The animals’ behavior was so strange that residents dubbed them “zombie raccoons,” displaying signs of what authorities said was likely a viral disease called distemper.
Describing his encounter with a zombie raccoon, photographer Robert Coggeshall said the animal had chased him and his dogs after appearing in his front yard.
“I had Buddy and Corbin outside in my front yard when a drooling raccoon appeared nearby,” Coggeshall wrote in a Facebook post, sharing picture of the sick raccoon in his garden.
“I quickly got the dogs inside, quickly pursued by the raccoon. I went back outside and got the raccoon to chase me down into my backyard away from the house,” he said, describing the raccoon’s strange behavior alongside pictures of the animal bearing its teeth.
Distemper can cause animals to become disorientated and their behavior to change, signs that are often mistaken for rabies, according to Racoon World. There is no cure for distemper, and indeed authorities euthanized at least 14 raccoons that were spotted behaving strangely in Youngstown.
Although there is no risk to humans from the disease, people’s pets are at risk if they have not been vaccinated against distemper. Residents in Youngstown were told by authorities to report any further sightings of raccoons behaving strangely to their nearest police station, Fox 8 reported.
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