Youngstown police were busy this weekend fighting crime — and raccoons. Several scared homeowners called, saying the animals were in their yards, acting strangely. Police said it didn’t seem like rabies was the cause.
In the past couple of weeks, Youngstown police have responded to over a dozen of these raccoon calls — all of them with reports of the same strange, zombie-like behavior. The majority of the calls happened in the daytime, too, even though raccoons are nocturnal.
“I looked over there and got distracted because I saw a raccoon coming our way,” said Robert Coggeshall, whose playtime with his dogs was interrupted by a fiesty and sick raccoon last week.
He put the dogs back in the house, but said the raccoon followed them to the door.
Once inside, the wildlife photographer grabbed his camera to document what he called “extremely strange behavior.”
“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 said.
He attempted to scare the raccoon away, only to find the animal was not interested in leaving.
“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.
Those animals — including the one in Coggeshall’s yard — were ultimately put down.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said it doesn’t sound like rabies, but rather a disease called distemper.
“Raccoons are really prone to getting diseases that even amongst themselves can be devastating to the population,” Geoff Westerfield said.
He said diseases like this stay local and eventually die off.
“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.”
Westerfield said trapping is how to keep the sick population down. He warned against relocating the raccoons once they’re caught because, unfortunately, they need to be euthanized.