You might have seen some headlines lately talking about “Zombie-like raccoons” terrifying residents in nearby Cook County, but Brett Youngsteadt, administrator of Kane County Animal Control, says we don’t have to worry too much right now in our neck of the woods.
The problem is canine distemper, which PetMD describes as “a contagious and serious viral illness with no known cure.”
The disease affects dogs, and certain species of wildlife, such as raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks. The common house pet, the ferret, is also a carrier of this virus.
“We have not seen any raccoons with these reported signs as seen in Cook County,” Youngsteadt said. “We always tell people to let wildlife be. Do not chase or feed them. If you have a problem with wildlife, contact a licensed trapper to have it removed.
“If the animal appears sick or injured, please contact your local municipality. In unincorporated, please contact KCAC. Do not approach the animal or let your pet interact with any wildlife.”
Canine distemper belongs to the Morbillivirus class of viruses, and is a relative of the measles virus, which affects humans, the Rinderpest virus that affects cattle, and the Phocine virus that causes seal distemper.
In Ohio, raccoons “have been spotted in broad daylight, walking on their hind legs, baring their teeth and showing no fear,” according to a story in the Detroit Free Press.
Pet owners are advised to vaccinate their dogs, and to supervise their animal while outside to prevent contact with wild animals, according to a story on Patch.
Kane County residents who witness raccoons displaying abnormal behavior should contact local police, a licensed trapper or, in unincorporated areas, the Kane County Animal Control Department.