YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – State officials now believe they know why zombies have been seen sauntering through a northeastern Ohio town.
“Zombie” raccoons, that is.
Youngstown police received more than a dozen calls in the past few weeks regarding their strange behavior.
Though rabies can cause the uncharacteristic raccoon behavior, experts said they suspect the raccoons are suffering from distemper, a viral disease that affects canines and other animals such as foxes and skunks, per Live Science.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has been euthanizing raccoons believed to be infected with the disease, which causes convulsions and paralysis, erases a raccoon’s fear of humans, and often sees the nocturnal animals venture out in daylight.
A DNR representative says distemper “can be devastating to the population” but less susceptible raccoons will help the population balloon again.
The problem isn’t isolated to Youngstown, though: Autopsies performed this year on raccoons in Cook County, Ill., showed 43 percent had distemper, NBC Chicago reports.
This follows the highest-ever rate of 45 percent in 2016.
“It’s very serious for the raccoon and it’s very serious for the companion animal population,” says a representative for Cook County Animal and Rabies Control.
Live Science notes that dogs can get a distemper vaccine.