Possible 'zombie raccoon' sighting in Pinconning

Published: May. 15, 2019 at 5:52 PM EDT
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(05/15/19) - A bizarre run-in with a raccoon leads to talk of possible "zombie raccoons."

If a raccoon, or other animal, is infected with canine distemper it can display zombie-like qualities.

Tuesday afternoon a Pinconning police officer may have seen one.

Sgt. Terry Spencer shared the experience on the department's Facebook page to make pet owners and other community members aware of the animal.

He came into contact with it after Cookie Bumgarner asked for help.

"I kept watching it out my door and it was just kind of laying there, which is very unusual," said Bumgarner, who manages Whispering Pines Apartments in Pinconning.

Bumgarner said another tenant offered to help.

"And she says, 'Well I'll get it off your porch for you'. So she tried to scurry it away. Well, it wouldn't go," Bumgarner said.

In fact, when the tenant approached it both of them got a surprise.

"It stood up to here and I thought, 'Oh gosh, this is kind of a mean one'. So I said, 'Just leave it, we'll deal with it later,'" Bumgarner said.

Spencer ending up getting it to move.

"He took a rake and he was scurrying it away off and it just kind of like went," Bumgarner said.

But Spencer said it didn't move easily. He could tell something was "off" about the critter. Bumgarner said the same thing.

"If he is sick, you know it may be could get with the other animals," she said.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirms canine distemper is present in raccoons and other animals in the region, so it's a possibility. But there are other diseases which could explain the behavior too.

In addition, this is breeding season for raccoons. That means the animals are coming into contact with each other more frequently, which could add to disease spread.

The DNR said to make sure dogs are up to date on their distemper shot to prevent a family pet from getting the disease. It can not be spread to humans.

Bumgarner is just glad it's gone.

"It just laid there, it didn't want to move. You know it didn't care if anybody was coming our going, and that's very usual with raccoons. I mean I've never seen them just lay there," she said.