Playing with his dogs in his yard, Robert Coggeshall spotted a raccoon coming his way and hustled his dogs back inside. But the raccoon kept coming – right up to his door.
Then things got really weird, Coggeshall told WKBN.
“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 the station. The Youngstown, Ohio, man tried to drive off the raccoon, but to no avail.
“He’d come out of it, walk around and then he’d do the same thing again, Coggeshall told WKBN. “Get on his hind feet and show his teeth.”
Youngstown police received at least 14 similar reports in March, officers told the station. Most of the calls have come during daylight hours, despite the fact that raccoons are chiefly active at night.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says the animals probably have distemper, reports WYTY.
“It’s mostly spread through inhalation, but any contact with a raccoon can be dangerous,” Margee O’Donnell-Foust of Bark Mobile Pet Vet told the station, warning local dog owners to be sure their pets are up to date on their vaccinations. “It is not transmissible to humans, however dogs in the backyard or in the park could certainly contract the illness.”
O’Donnell-Foust told WYTY cats are not generally susceptible to distemper.
Cook County in Illinois also has seen a recent outbreak of “zombie raccoons,” also attributed to distemper, reported WBBN.
“What you are most impressed with is these animals walking extremely slowly, and not seeming to care about their surroundings,” said Donna Alexander, administrator for Cook County Animal & Rabies Control. “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.”
Canine distemper is a viral illness with no known cure, according PetMD. Along with dogs and raccoons, distemper can affect wolves, foxes, skunks and ferrets. It’s a relative of the human measles virus. Early symptoms include high fever, reddened eyes and watery discharges from the nose and eyes. In later stages, the virus attacks the nervous system, causing fits, seizures, paralysis and attacks of hysteria, the site says.