PROVO – The Provo Police Department is warning everyone… stay away from “zombie raccoons.”
Yes, it’s a real thing.
Picture in your mind the movie Elf, starring Will Ferrell, and think of the scene where Buddy finds a raccoon and tries to give it a hug. Not wanting to be touched, the raccoon rips Buddy apart.
Animal control officials that’s what can happen when someone approached a raccoon with Canine Distemper.
Over the past several months, Provo police say they’ve been getting calls from people seeing raccoons act out of sorts and walking funny in the streets.
Over the past 6 months we have received a number of reports of sick or injured raccoons in the city. Almost all of these raccoons have been sick with canine distemper. The symptoms include runny nose and eyes, disorientation, wandering aimlessly, and scaly, cracked paws. pic.twitter.com/0mITK2GZuC— Provo Police (@ProvoPolice) January 15, 2020
“We’ve had quite a few calls where kids were following them around the neighborhood and concerned neighbors will call it in to us. That’s absolutely not what we want,” says Animal Control Officer Elena Farnsworth.
In certain ways, some of the symptoms of distemper may look like rabies. The animal has watery eyes, a runny nose and may appear to be wandering aimlessly. However, rabid animals are usually aggressive while animals with this distemper are usually calmer.
“A lot of times, these raccoons’ eyes will be so gunked over, they can’t really see. That’s part of why they’re probably not reacting to your being there,” she says.
The raccoons may seem so docile and approachable, they may give off the impression that they wouldn’t mind if you pet them. That would be a huge mistake, though. Farnsworth says the animals will respond, violently.
She says, “It will bite you. They don’t want to be touched.”
So far, none of the raccoons they’ve taken in have tested positive for rabies. Plus, distemper itself isn’t contagious to humans. However, Farnsworth says, “That doesn’t mean that there are not secondary bacterial infections that these raccoons are suffering from.” Some have tested positive for things like E. Coli.