Are ‘zombie’ raccoons present in southwest Ohio?

ajc.com

By now you may have heard of the man in Youngstown, Ohio who claimed he had an encounter with a zombie raccoon last Friday. In summary, Robert Coggeshall said a fearless raccoon approached his screen door, stood up on its hind legs while showing its teeth, secreted from the mouth and then fell down into a convulsion.  WKBN-TV, who talked to Coggeshall, also reports that the raccoon repeated this process two or three times before the animal was eventually trapped and euthanized.

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Citizens of Youngstown have compared the affected raccoons to zombies because they can be seen staggering around streets on their hind legs with their claws out.

WHAT IS CAUSING THIS UNUSUAL BEHAVIOR IN RACCOONS?

WHIO-TV spoke with Bruce Terrill,  Assistant Wildlife Management Supervisor at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, who stated the unusual behavior is caused by distemper. According to Terrill, distemper is a disease that usually affects dogs but can also affect foxes, skunks, coyotes, and raccoons. Distemper impacts the brain and causes symptoms similar to rabies. In addition, infected animals often lose their fear of humans or loud surroundings causing them to be more visible. Distemper also affects the neurological system causing animals to become confused and often show their teeth in a combative way. The disease is spread by an infected animal’s bodily fluids or secretions coming in contact with another animal.

ARE THESE “ZOMBIE” RACCOONS PRESENT NEAR ME?

Terrill informed us that cases of infected raccoons have been reported in the southwest Ohio area. However, he says that distemper is a yearly outbreak and the current level of infection among wildlife is completely normal. The disease cannot be passed to humans and if your dog is vaccinated for distemper then it should be safe too.

WHAT DO I DO IF I COME IN CONTACT WITH WILDLIFE INFECTED WITH DISTEMPER?

Terrill suggests three routes of action if you come in contact with an animal infected with distemper. The first is to flee from it and let nature run its course. There are cases when animals can recover, but often times the animal will eventually flee to seclusion and die. The second course of action is to call an expert to euthanize the animal. The third action would be to call a trained animal trapper to catch and remove the animal from your property.

ARE THERE WAYS TO HELP KEEP THE WILDLIFE AWAY FROM MY ANIMALS AND PROPERTY?

In order to help prevent wildlife from getting near your animals you can take a number of actions. These steps include feeding your pets indoors so the smell and any excess food is not out in the open; storing garbage cans inside or adding locking lids to the cans; and most importantly not feeding the wildlife in your area.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY PET HAS COME IN CONTACT WITH A DISTEMPER INFECTED ANIMAL?

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources advises to immediately seek medical treatment for your pet if it has come in contact with a possible distemper infected animal.  Distemper often times can be fatal, but if proper treatment is applied your pet can be saved.

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