YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Police are investigating reports of “zombie-like” raccoons in northeast Ohio.
WKBN-TV reports Youngstown police have received more than a dozen calls in the past three weeks about raccoons acting strangely in the daytime.
Photographer Robert Coggeshall says he was playing with his dogs outside his home last week when one such raccoon approached them. Coggeshall says the animal would stand on its hind legs, show its teeth and fall over backward.
The raccoon Coggeshall saw and 14 others police responded to were euthanized. The state Department of Natural Resources says the animals were likely suffering from distemper, not rabies.
The viral disease causes coughing, tremors and seizures and leads raccoons to lose their fear of humans.
Authorities are asking residents to report raccoons behaving unusually to their local police station.
Raccoons are susceptible to canine and feline distemper, which makes the disease the second-leading cause of death of the animals.
Highly contagious, canine distemper is common among large raccoon populations. The virus affects mostly juvenile animals. It starts slowly as a respiratory infection followed by weight loss and pneumonia. In the final stages, raccoons become lethargic and wander aimlessly as if in a “zombie” state, unaware of their surroundings.
Feline distemper usually begins suddenly with a high fever, followed by vomiting, anorexia and loss of white blood cells. The mortality rate is often 100 percent.
No treatment exists for either strain of distemper and infected raccoons are usually euthanized. Experts believe flies, fleas and other insects play a role in transmission. R.
— Associated Press with staff reports