What in the World Are Zombie Raccoons?
Zombie raccoons may sound like a comedic title for a fictional zombie film, but there’s nothing comedic, nor fictional about what’s happening to these poor creatures. These raccoons are acting like zombies for a reason: they’re infected with the distemper virus. People who have seen them reported that they walk on their hind legs, bare their teeth, and just stagger around—sometimes even falling over in a comatose state.
Now, most of us know that raccoons are generally harmless animals, occasionally going through our trash to look for some grub. However, these so-called zombie raccoons are a threat to both pets and humans, since they may have aggressive tendencies. They can also spread distemper to unvaccinated dogs, as well as other species of wildlife, such as skunks, coyotes, foxes, and of course, other raccoons. On top of that, they’ve seemed to have lost their fear of humans, making them incredibly difficult to scare off.
How Do I Know It’s Not Rabies?
The aggression, baring of teeth, and overall behavioral changes caused many people to think that these raccoons have rabies. However, wildlife experts confirmed that the signs are more aligned with distemper. There are some similarities between their symptoms, but raccoons with rabies may act a lot more aggressive and rabid than those with distemper. Distemper may cause infected raccoons to appear aggressive, but they’re mostly just disoriented and less afraid of humans. Either way, though, if you happen to encounter these zombie raccoons, it’s best to stay away and not approach them. There’s really no way of telling what disease an animal has just by looking at it and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How Can I Protect My Dog?
In this situation, unvaccinated dogs and puppies are more at-risk. If your dog isn’t vaccinated yet, it’s important to get them vaccinated right away. If that’s currently not an option for you, then just make sure to keep your dog and all of their belongings indoors. Also, refrain from feeding them outside to be safe. Similar to infected dogs, zombie raccoons shed the distemper virus through feces, which can potentially be in your very backyard. So, always disinfect the areas around your home, especially ones that are accessible to other animals, like your yard, garden, or patio.
Another thing to keep in mind is to remove everything that can attract raccoons to your home, like trash or leftover food. If you feed your dog outside, always remember to bring their food bowls and water dishes indoors. Make sure trash cans are secure and that their lids are tightly closed. If you have a compost bin with fruits and vegetable scraps, be sure that it’s always securely covered and can’t be knocked over easily.
What Do I Do When I Encounter Zombie Raccoons?
Because of the recent outbreak of distemper in the raccoon population, it’s best to refrain from feeding or approaching any raccoon. If you encounter ones that act strangely, do not attempt to go near them. If you do so while walking your dog, never allow your dog to come into contact with the raccoons, especially if they haven’t gotten vaccinated yet. Also, if you have kids, let them know about the dangers of these diseased raccoons and tell them to keep away.
It’s also possible for zombie raccoons to make their way into someone’s backyard and die there, or just wander around aimlessly. If either of those things happens to you, make sure to contact animal control or your local wildlife control company to help you out. Never attempt to handle sick wildlife on your own, especially ones that can be potentially dangerous and rabid.