Police in the area have investigated over a dozen cases of unusual raccoon behavior in the past few weeks—many callers have likened these critters to zombies, because of their stilted, jerky movement, their aggressive behavior, and the fact that they’re walking around on their hind legs.
They’re also showing up during the daytime (not exactly standard raccoon behavior), baring their teeth at anything that moves, and they’re taken to falling down into comatose states without provocation.
It’s as if Rocket Raccoon was infected with the T-Virus, and it’s creeping people out.
While the first reaction to hearing some of these symptoms might be to worry about rabies, something stranger is going on. In reality, this disease is probably a virus that’s known as distemper, which according to the American Veterinary Medical Association“is a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems” of its victims.
The symptoms for distemper include “head tilt, muscle twitches … seizures, and partial or complete paralysis”, which basically sounds like every description of a zombie that’s ever been given.
The good news is that the disease can’t be caught by human beings, so if one of these zombie raccoons bites you, you’ll probably want to get some shots, but you’re not in danger of turning into a zombie yourself.
Sadly, the same is not true of dogs—distemper is more commonly known as canine distempe, because while it can affect raccoons, foxes, skunks, and coyotes, it’s most commonly seen by humans when it infects our beloved pets.
As if that weren’t bad enough, canine distemper is most likely to affect sweet, adorable puppies who haven’t yet developed stronger immune systems. It’s as if some evil genius genetically engineered the most heartbreaking zombie virus of all time.
The clear and present danger that this disease poses to both wild animals and domesticated pets means that any and all infected raccoons have had to be dealt within a somewhat permanent manner.
You know what this means: if you’ve ever had dreams of becoming a Woody Harrelson-style zombie hunter, now’s your chance! Head on down to Youngstown, Ohio, with a net, an axe, and a cricket bat, and see what you can do to help their their current infestation.
Just do yourself a favor and leave Fido at home. Playing real-life Zombieland is fun. Re-enacting Old Yeller is less appealing.