'Zombie raccoons' are attacking people in Ohio


Youngstown police were busy this weekend fighting crime - and raccoons.

Around noon on Friday, Robert Coggeshall was playing outside his Youngstown, Ohio, house with his beagles when he saw the raccoon.

Police say they are investigating more than a dozen reports of "zombie-like" raccoons roaming residential neighborhoods in northeast Ohio.

Once inside, the wildlife photographer grabbed his camera to document what he called "extremely unusual behavior".

'He would show his teeth, and fall over backwards, which I've never seen a raccoon do before, and go into nearly, like a comatose condition'.

If this diagnosis is correct, raccoons baring their teeth at Youngstown people and pets aren't threatening to eat their brains - they're experiencing facial muscle spasms as their nervous systems escape their conscious control. It soon awoke from its lethargy, walked around for a bit, then got back up on its hind feet again.

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The following video illustrates the symptoms of distemper exhibited by a raccoon, though as WKBN-TV points out, it was not recorded in Youngstown.

As was the case in MI past year, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources reports the raccoons were likely suffering from distemper and not rabies.

Among raccoons, an outbreak of the disease is most likely to occur in large or concentrated populations, and can run in cycles of five to seven years, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"Raccoons are really prone to getting diseases that even amongst themselves can be devastating to the population", Geoff Westerfield said.

The disease, he said, stays local and eventually dies off. He warned against relocating the raccoons once they're caught because, unfortunately, they need to be euthanized.

The police had to respond to 14 similar situations over the course of the past three weeks, and all raccoons they encountered were ultimately put down, the media outlet adds.