Police warn pet owners of 'zombie raccoons'

Riverside police are warning about "zombie raccoons."

A fourth sighting came Tuesday from a homeowner who lives in a wooded area near the Des Plaines River. Police say water, plus woods, is commonly where they're being spotted.

Missy Wojtowicz snapped a few photos of a zombie raccoon, seemingly in a daze in her backyard in Riverside. Her husband scooped him out of their pool around 5 a.m. and then, Missy said, "I came out hours later and he was still there. He was kind of rolling around. I wasn't sure if he was injured. It looked like he couldn't get up. When I had seen him, he had fallen in the pool again. That's when I got the neighbor and said, you know, can you help me get this zombie raccoon outta my pool?"

"It seemed like it was really just unsure of where it was at and then as it looked at you, it really looked like it was just looking right through you. There wasn't any kind of fear or any kind of reaction whatsoever," said Wojtowicz's neighbor, Sean Cimino.

Zombie raccoons have the virus known as "canine distemper" -- which makes them act a little crazy. Distemper can be deadly to dogs, so animal control advises pet owners be certain their dog's distemper vaccination is up to date.

"Yeah that is a concern. Obviously you don't know what the raccons are doing and what your dog can get into as well," said Cimino.

And the problem isn't just a Riverside thing.

"Really people throughout the county should be on alert. What we're asking people to do is making sure that they are with their animals, when they're on walks, that their animals are leashed," said Natalia Derevyanny, a Cook County Animal & Rabies Control spokesperson.

Animal Control advises people watch over their dogs, even in fenced yards. Zombie raccoons have no fear of humans. They've been spotted in the daylight.

While the distemper virus isn't contagious to humans, police say if you see one, you should report it.

Symptoms of the virus include ocular and nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and seizures, police said. The virus can result in death from secondary pneumonia or seizures.

"It seems every year around this time we get a rise in calls about raccoons acting oddly and we respond to calls about raccoons that may be a danger to the public," Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said. "Our policy allows us to put down animals that are suffering or pose a threat to public safety."