(CBS Local) — Police in Youngstown, Ohio had more than crime to deal with over the last month. The city has reportedly been invaded by a wave of “zombie-like” raccoons who have terrified local residents.
Police received 14 calls in March from homeowners saying that the woodland creatures were spotted standing upright on their back legs and showing off their fangs. One wildlife photographer called the shocking sight “extremely strange.”
“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,” Robert Coggeshall told WKBN. Making the incidents more disturbing, all the sightings were made during the day even though raccoons are nocturnal animals.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources believes the animals have been infected with distemper. The disease is reportedly very contagious and can cause digestive problems, respiratory issues, and seizures. Local health officials say the virus can’t be transmitted to humans however, dogs can catch distemper from these zombie raccoons.
“It’s mostly spread through inhalation, but any contact with a raccoon can be dangerous,” Dr. Margee O’Donnell-Foust of Bark Mobile Pet Vet said. “Dogs in the backyard or in the park could certainly contract the illness.”
Cook County in Illinois has also seen a group of zombie raccoons enter their communities. “What you are most impressed with is these animals walking extremely slowly, and not seeming to care about their surroundings,” Dr. Donna Alexander said, via CBS Chicago. “They are not showing any fear of humans. They are walking around during the daytime.”
Dr. Alexander adds that the best thing dog owners can do is to get their pets vaccinated against distemper. Police in Youngstown added that Ohioans should contact police immediately if they spot anymore of the “undead” critters walking around.