In a spectacle that may remind one of zombie movies, residents of Ohio are being terrorised by raccoons behaving like the undead. These animals have been behaving behaving bizarrely, terrorising residents by standing up on their hind legs and gnashing their teeth. In Youngtown Ohio, police helplines have been ringing off the hook, reporting incidents of what seems like a racoon zombie invasion. These scavenging creatures who are mostly seen at night have been making daytime visits. Raccoons are known to flee at the sight of people, but strangely, residents have reported that the animals seem to be behaving rather brazenly with the humans.
An Ohio resident, who is also a wildlife photographer, recollects an instance where an infected raccoon made its way to his door steps. On being shooed, it stood up on its hind legs and flashed its teeth in a grimace. The animal was visibly unwell since it was drooling from its mouth. Suddenly, it collapsed to the ground. It woke up from its stupor and got back on its hind legs and walked away. The animal was seen to be repeating the same bizarre behaviour over and over again.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said that the raccoons were most likely suffering from a disease known as distemper. It is a viral disease that affects unvaccinated animals, especially wild ones such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, etc. Sometimes, even domesticated animals such as dogs can fall prey to the infection. The disease cannot be passed on to humans but an infected animal can always get aggressive and attack people when its condition worsens.
Biologists note that the disease mainly affects raccoons when their population becomes concentrated in a particular area. The disease spreads when the animals come in direct contact with the bodily fluids or droppings of other infected animals. The virus is always present in the atmosphere, so vets recommend getting pets vaccinated against it.
The zombie raccoons are exhibiting some of the classic symptoms of distemper. The dazed behaviour is commonly seen in infected animals, who become disoriented and wander aimlessly. Apart from that, some of the other symptoms include discharge from the nose and an emaciated appearance. Although some of the signs of the disease may overlap with rabies, like drooling from the mouth, it is not the same.
It’s advisable to keep the animals away from children and pets since the raccoons may get easily agitated and prone to attacks as their disease progresses.