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‘Zombie raccoons’ spotted in New Orleans park pose threat to pets, city warns

Recent sightings of sick, “zombie-like” raccoons have some New Orleans residents on excessive alert.

And officers say there’s trigger for concern after New Orleans City Park-goers have seen a lot of the animals “acting erratically” in current weeks.

“They become lethargic, they’re not manic,” New Orleans City Park Chief Operating Officer Rob DeViney informed WGNO. “They often have seizures and runny noses. They are so disoriented.”

State wildlife officers confirmed the raccoons are infected with canine distemper, a respiratory virus usually unfold via contact with physique fluids or droppings from an contaminated animal, in accordance to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The illness doesn’t have an effect on people, however may be lethal to canine that aren’t vaccinated.

City Park has since put up indicators urging guests to keep vigilant.

“I’m concerned about these raccoons,” mentioned resident Benjamin Dominach, in accordance to WWL-TV. “I haven’t seen any, but I am kind of on my guard in case there are some crazy raccoons that are going to nibble at my toes.”

Michael Sloan, who walks his canine in the park, informed WGNO he’s come throughout a number of of the sick raccoons just lately.

“The first time I saw them, I thought they were poisoned but it seems like they were sick,” Sloan mentioned, in accordance to the information station. “They’ve got hunched backs and they are not moving quickly or they’re not moving at all. Sometimes they are curled up and it looks like they are sleeping.”

City Park officers say distemper is “a common issue” that’s not particular to the general public park — it’s “always in the environment.”

The viral illness infects raccoons, foxes, skunks and different animals in the wild, in accordance to state wildlife officers. It isn’t the identical as rabies, however can produce comparable signs similar to a runny nostril and eyes, tough coat of fur, coughing, an emaciated look and odd, zombie-like habits “such as disorientation or wandering aimlessly.”

The animals’ signs worsen over time and often finish in loss of life, wildlife officers say.

Dog house owners are urged to ensure their pet’s vaccinations are up to date. Visitors are additionally warned to avoid sick raccoons, as they’ll turn out to be aggressive if approached too carefully.

“If people see these animals they should keep their distance from the animals and call or email the Park with location and details,” a New Orleans City Park spokesperson informed McClatchy News in an announcement.

Related tales from Raleigh News & Observer

Tanasia is a nationwide Real-Time reporter based mostly in Atlanta overlaying Georgia, Mississippi and the southeastern U.S. She’s an alumna of Kennesaw State University and joined McClatchy in 2020.

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