As we’ve previously established, it’s not a question of if raccoons will take over the world, but when. Local outlets indicate a “zombie-like” sect of the trash panda militia is in the process of taking over Youngstown, Ohio.
WKBN reports local police have recently investigated around 14 phone calls about raccoons exhibiting “strange, zombie-like behavior.” Police don’t suspect rabies to be the cause, but the raccoons are definitely ill — and potentially dangerous.
So far, only a few have been brave enough to talk about what they’ve seen.
“I looked over there and got distracted because I saw a raccoon coming our way,” Robert Coggeshall, who was playing with his dogs before encountering the raccoon, told WKBN. “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.”
It’s possible raccoons in the area are infected with canine distemper, an incurable illness that can affect dogs and wildlife, including raccoons. According to PetMD, it can be passed along in the air or via any kind of contact with an infected animal. In the final stages of the virus, when it progresses to the nervous system, an animal can experience seizures similar to the ones Youngstown residents describe.
Since human and raccoon populations both appear to be growing, it makes sense people will experience more run-ins with them, zombie or otherwise.
“It’s basically a case of the trash panda army,” wildlife biologist Imogene Cancellare previously told Inverse. “The main issue is that raccoons are a generalist species, meaning they can meet their resource needs in a variety of habitats. They’re also urban-adapted.”
So while this isn’t exactly the raccoon reboot of 28 Days Later, if you see one of these critters out in the wild acting strange, don’t pet it. As much as you might want to, just don’t.