USDA: “Zombie-like” raccoons are not rabid

By Justin Wier


The U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined that several “zombie-like” raccoons shot by Youngstown police last weekend did not have rabies.

Police took six reports of raccoons from March 30 through Monday, four of which were on the West Side near Mill Creek MetroParks.

Reports described the animals as wobbling and stumbling.

Bob Coggeshall, who lives on Old Furnace Road, said a raccoon in his yard fell as if unconscious before getting back up and repeating the cycle.

Officers recovered five of the six raccoons for testing. A sixth raccoon fell into the Mahoning River.

Tara Cioffi, head of the city health department’s environmental division, said it was unusual for city police to put down six raccoons in so short a time span.

City Health Commissioner Erin Bishop said the city health department will determine whether the USDA can test the raccoons for distemper.

Neither the city health department nor the Ohio Department of Health conduct testing for distemper.

Raccoons with distemper exhibit similar symptoms to those with rabies, but distemper cannot be transmitted to humans.

It can, however, affect cats and dogs, which can be vaccinated for distemper.

Bishop said distemper is the second-leading cause of death among raccoons.

While the raccoons were not rabid, the Mahoning County Health Department will offer a rabies vaccination clinic from 1 to 4 p.m. April 14 at the Damascus Fire Department.

The vaccination required for all dogs, cats and ferrets over 3 months of age will cost $8.

Pets must be on a leash, in a cage or carried inside a pillowcase.

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