Wildlife officials explain why raccoons in Illinois, Ohio are acting like ‘zombies’

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Zombies have been seen sauntering through a northeastern Ohio town and across the Cook County area of Illinois. “Zombie” raccoons, that is.

Youngstown residents are speaking out about them after police received more than a dozen calls in the past few weeks regarding their strange behavior.

One resident tells WKBN he was outside with his dogs last week when one such “zombie” followed him to his door. The raccoon “would stand up on his hind legs,” show its teeth, then “fall over backward and go into almost a comatose condition,” the man says.

“He’d come out of it, walk around, and then he’d do the same thing again.” Though rabies can cause similar, uncharacteristic behavior, experts suspect the raccoons are suffering from distemper, a viral disease that affects canines and other animals such as foxes and skunks, per Live Science.

Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources has been euthanizing raccoons believed to be infected with the disease, which causes convulsions and paralysis, erases a raccoon’s fear of humans, and often sees the nocturnal animals venture out in daylight.

Sick raccoons have also been spotted in residential areas and forest preserves across Cook County, according to the Patch.

In a news release, an administrator for the county animal and rabies control department said, “This year, 56 percent of raccoons that have been necropsied have been positive for the canine distemper virus. This exceeds the 46 percent experienced in 2004, the last year of a distemper epidemic.”

Pet owners are advised to vaccinate their dogs, and to supervise their animal while outside to prevent contact with wild animals.

Residents who come across raccoons displaying abnormal behavior should contact police or the animal control department.

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