Zombie Raccoons or Harbingers of Madness?

Based on the shear volume of stories flooding the news last week, you would think it was some sort of pandemic. From Ohio, throughout the Midwest and other parts of the US, the reports were all the same, “zombie raccoons” are everywhere and people are being terrorized.

The whole thing reminds me of when a friend of mine bought a bright yellow truck. I wondered why anyone would paint that ugly color on a nice vehicle. Then, almost all at once, it seemed like many of the same puke-yellow cars and trucks were everywhere. Did my friend start a horrible trend or were those yellow vehicles already out there and I just hadn’t noticed them, until then?

So the zombie raccoon stories got me wondering, was this a new phenomenon or were the press and regular folk just noticing what’s already a problem?

We believe it’s a bit of both.

Doing some checking, stories about “zombie raccoons” started to appear as early as 2013 (Distemper Outbreak Causing Zombie Raccoons, Dallas Morning News). Of course, stories about raccoons attacking animals and people go back hundreds of years. What’s real interesting is the recent rash of stories (beginning in January), starting in Youngstown, Ohio, where it’s been reported from multiple news sources that,

over a dozen people called police to report strange-acting raccoons approaching people and animals in broad daylight.

That last point was strange in itself because raccoons are nocturnal animals. You don’t see them in daylight, unless something’s wrong. And something is very wrong.

The “zombie raccoons” also were reported to be aggressive, reared on their hind legs and bore their teeth, and they lacked any fear of people. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources euthanized all the reported raccoons and were quick to state that the cause was distemper, a contagious virus mostly found in dogs. This cause is what’s being reported everywhere now.

As we’ve chronicled throughout these pages, when aggressive behavior in animals and humans is reported, “experts” are quick to point to a cause that is explainable. And that’s because explainable feels safe to everyone involved.

Missing from all of the stories is a confirmation of the cause. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources only said, “it sounds like distemper.”

Then on Friday’s CBSlocal.com site in Los Angeles, we get: “Zombie-Like” Raccoons Now Being Investigated By USDA. That’s right, the USDA isn’t convinced it’s distemper and has requested the bodies of some of the euthanized animals so it can analyze the true cause.

We’ll see if it’s distemper or perhaps our little friend T-Gondii, which has been the root cause of so much mayhem lately.

This story is ongoing. Stay tuned.

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