In Brief

Teeth-Baring 'Zombie' Raccoons Scaring Residents of Ohio Town

In recent weeks, police in Youngstown, Ohio have received over a dozen calls about raccoons acting strangely in broad daylight, according to local news outlet WKBN.

One resident, Robert Coggeshall, told WKBN that he spotted a raccoon behaving very oddly last week while he was playing with his dogs outside. The raccoon "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,” Coggeshall said.

The raccoons don't seem to have rabies, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Rather, the animals likely have a disease called distemper, according to WKBN.

Distemper is a serious viral disease that affects dogs and some wild animals, including raccoons, foxes, wolves, coyotes, skunks and ferrets, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). It's caused by the canine distemper virus, which belongs to a family of viruses known as paramyxoviruses, and is related to the virus that causes measles in humans, the AKC says. [11 Ways Your Beloved Pet May Make You Sick]

The virus attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of dogs and other animals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Initial symptoms can include pus-like discharge from the animals' eyes, along with fever, reduced appetite, nasal discharge, coughing and vomiting.

As the disease progresses, the animals may develop neurological symptoms, including muscle twitches, convulsions with jaw movements, seizures or paralysis. Animals may also show changes in behavior, such as circling or tilting their head. In wild animals, distemper closely resembles rabies, the AVMA says.

Distemper in dogs is preventable with a vaccine, which is given as a series of shots to puppies, followed by booster vaccines for adult dogs.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.