Police in Ohio puzzled by 'zombie-like' raccoons

Police in eastern Ohio have had more than crime to deal with the past three weeks -- zombie-like raccoons have been giving them fits.

Police in Youngstown said they have responded to more than a dozen calls about raccoons displaying unusual behavior, WCMH reported.

“I looked over there and got distracted because I saw a raccoon coming our way,” Robert Coggeshall, who was playing with his dogs outside his home, told WCMH,

Coggeshall said he took photographs of the raccoon because it was acting strangely.

“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,” Coggeshall told WCMH.

He attempted to scare the raccoon away, but the animal was indifferent.

“He’d come out of it, walk around and then he’d do the same thing again. Get on his hind feet and show his teeth,” Coggeshall said.

Police were called to 14 similar situations in the past three weeks. The reports detail “particular behavior” and large noises or motions not scaring the animals away.

All 15 animals -- including the one Coggeshall saw -- were put down.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the symptoms people are seeing are not rabies, but a disease called distemper, WCMH reported.

“Raccoons are really prone to getting diseases that even amongst themselves can be devastating to the population,” said Geoff Westerfield, the department’s assistant wildlife management supervisor. “When you end up with just a couple of individuals left that aren’t as susceptible to it, then the disease kind of dies out for a while until the populations grow again.”