Here are two words which strike fear into the heart of any sane person: zombie and raccoon. If one were to put these words together, humanity would have discovered a new, terrifying level of danger which, frankly, we may not survive. In Youngstown, Ohio, that nightmare has become reality.
Over the last three weeks, police have received over 36 calls about "zombie raccoon" sightings.
The raccoons are wandering up to humans during the daytime, displaying none of the fear associated with mankind and not responding to sounds trying to scare them away. They then stand up on their hind legs, snarling and slobbering, before falling over backwards.
As of right now, police have responded to and euthanized 14 raccoons.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources believes the raccoons are suffering from a disease with similar symptoms to rabies called distemper. It often affects other canine species like foxes and unvaccinated dogs, and skunks. Though the disease doesn't affect humans, it harms its animal victim's brains, leading to their lack of fear around humans and daytime wandering. Distemper also causes "respiratory disease, seizures, immobility and death."
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says that "large, concentrated populations" of raccoons are more vulnerable to the disease, which is spread by coming into contact with the body fluids or feces of an infected individual. Geoff Westerfield, a wildlife biologist, commented to WKBN-TV:
Raccoons are really prone to getting diseases that even among themselves can be devastating to the population.
Youngstown police are asking all local residents to quickly report any raccoons behaving strangely. Humankind has to nip this problem in the bud before we stumble into a Walking Dead situation...