Raccoons exist in this weird pocket of the animal kingdom composed of adorable animals that look cute but are actually mean as fuck. Up to this point, humans and raccoons have reached something of a truce agreement, where we don't try to domesticate them, let them feast on our trash, and send our cops to help them out of sewer grates when they eat too much in exchange for their mercy. But it looks like our time of great interspecies peace is about to come to an end—because the age of the zombie raccoon is apparently upon us.
This March, residents of Youngstown, Ohio, began noticing something weird about their local raccoon population. The animals were coming out during the day and standing on their back legs, bearing their teeth and staggering around like extras in a George Romero movie, WKBN reports.
"[The raccoon] 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," Robert Coggeshall, who was walking his dogs when he spotted the raccoon in question, told WKBN. Eventually, the raccoon would shake itself out of the daze, rise back up to its hind legs, and stagger forward, before repeating the whole process over again. It was, to put it in Coggeshall's words, "extremely strange."
Ohio police have received over a dozen reports of similar sightings of these zombie-like raccoons terrorizing the Youngstown area. No one is certain exactly what is causing the weird-ass behavior, but the Ohio Department of Natural Resources says the raccoons may be suffering from a disease called distemper, rather than rabies.
According to PetMD, distemper is a deadly virus that can affect raccoons as well as dogs, skunks, and other animal species, but is not contagious for humans. It starts with fever symptoms, but "in the later stages of the disease, the virus starts attacking the other systems of the body, particularly the nervous system," PetMD writes. "The brain and spinal cord are affected and the [animal] may start having fits, seizures, paralysis, and attacks of hysteria."
An incurable virus that starts out innocuously before attacking the brain and causing hysteria? Sounds terrifyingly familiar. If this is round one of the zombie raccoon outbreak, get your melee weapons ready and prepare to fend off an angry swarm of these guys:
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