Tag Archives: raccoons with distemper

Zombie Raccoons in Illinois

Zombie Raccoons Illinois

Have you been hearing the stories about Zombie Raccoons in Illinois?

It sure makes for an interesting headline. You can imagine the walking dead raccoons strolling through the Chicago suburbs screaming “Brains… more brains!”

That’s not what the “zombie raccoon” phenomenon is really about, despite the headlines or stories you may have seen on WGN, NBC7 or Fox News.

The zombie raccoons stories actually have to do with a disease that has been affecting raccoons in the Midwest for years: Raccoon Distemper.

It’s just that “raccoon distemper” doesn’t have the same ring to it as ZOMBIE RACCOONS does, so that phrase has taken over the headlines because it gets people’s attention.


What are Zombie Raccoons?

Aggressive Raccoon“Zombie raccoons” are wild raccoons displaying unusual behaviors such as being active in the daytime, walking on their hind legs, bearing their teeth, and falling over backward and going “into almost a comatose condition” before later arising again.

That unusual behavior of appearing to “go comatose” is what has given them the nickname of “zombie raccoons”.

They are not actually walking dead raccoons who wander the earth in search of human or animal victims.

The true cause of these zombie-like behaviors is actually a disease known as “raccoon distemper”.

Related post: Raccoon FAQ


What is Raccoon Distemper?

raccoons carrying disease into your homeDistemper is a viral disease which can affect the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of infected raccoons. It may cause twitching, seizures, and paralysis in raccoons, which is the reason they have been said to display zombie-like behavior.

In the wild, distemper most commonly affects raccoons, skunks, and foxes. It can also be transmitted to domesticated dogs and cats.

Related post: Do raccoons attack humans, dogs, and cats?

You should always keep your pets away from raccoons because they can carry rabies. It should go without saying that if you see a “zombie raccoon” that you should definitely keep your dogs and cats away from them.

There is no cure for raccoon distemper. Your dog can be vaccinated to help protect it. Humans are safe from distemper because it cannot be transferred to humans.

Related post: Common raccoon diseases


What should I do if I see a zombie raccoon?

RUN!!! Or at least don’t go near them.

Seriously, you should always stay away from wild raccoons because they can carry diseases, including rabies or distemper. Raccoons rarely attack a human, but it does happen. A raccoon displaying unusual behaviors is likely to be diseased.


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Related Zombie Raccoon Stories and Sources:

Wildlife officials explain why raccoons in Illinois, Ohio are acting like ‘zombies’ – WGN9

Police Investigate Reports of ‘Zombie’ Raccoons – NBC Chicago

Fearless ‘Zombie Raccoons’ Can Be Fatal To Pets – Chicago Patch

‘Zombie raccoons’ are freaking out residents with bizarre behavior, Ohio police say – Sacramento Bee

‘Zombie raccoons’ terrorizing town – Fox News


Canine Distemper – Wikipedia

Chicago Raccoons With Distemper in 2016

raccoons with distemper

What is Distemper?

Distemper is a highly contagious virus that causes widespread mortality among large raccoon populations. Raccoons are susceptible to both canine and feline distemper, though they are different viruses. Canine distemper usually appears as an upper respiratory infection and later develops into conjunctivitis (pink eye). Feline distemper is associated with high fever, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and a severe decrease in white blood cells.

Chicago Raccoons With Distemper

Country officials have found a large amount of dead raccoons with canine distemper this spring, at 56%. This number exceeds the distemper numbers from Cook County’s epidemic, a decade ago, which was 46%. This huge increase is nothing short of an epidemic and pet owners should be wary. Raccoons make their homes anywhere, including urban areas, and distemper is not impervious to reaching city raccoons.

Signs of Raccoons with Distemper

Raccoons suffering canine distemper may be disoriented, wander in circles, suffer paralysis, and exhibit strange behavior as a result of brain damage. This behavior is similar to rabid raccoon behavior and often mistaken as rabies. Some liken the distempered raccoons to zombies. The raccoons are active during the daytime (though they are nocturnal) show little fear of humans, and exhibit bizarre, sleepy behavior.

Treatment & Prevention

There is no treatment that exists to remedy canine or feline distemper. Dogs can pick up distemper from infected raccoons even if they do not come in direct contact with the animals. They can contract distemper from airborne exposure and sharing food or water with other infected dogs. Humans are not at risk for distemper. The best method to minimize risk of distemper is through vaccination. Dogs that contract canine distemper can exhibit cold-like symptoms, lose appetite, have seizures, and catch pneumonia if left untreated. Vaccinate your pets immediately to prevent distemper infection.

Raccoons with distemper are usually euthanized.

If you discover a raccoon acting strangely, especially during the daytime, or a raccoon carcass on your property – call animal control services to remove the animal and protect your pets.