Chicago Area Police Are Warning Pet Owners About ‘Zombie Raccoons’

iStock.com/yipengge
iStock.com/yipengge
The Riverside Police Department in suburban Chicago, Illinois is warning residents to look out for "zombie raccoons" stumbling through the area, the Chicago Tribune reports. The raccoons get their spooky nickname from a disease that causes them to walk upright, stagger aimlessly, and bare their teeth [PDF]. Despite resembling furry members of the undead, the scariest thing about them is their potential to spread a deadly disease to dogs. Distemper is a virus that infects certain mammals like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and skunks. Domesticated dogs are also susceptible to the disease. When a dog has distemper, it discharges watery pus from its eyes, starts coughing, develops a fever, loses its appetite, and becomes lethargic. The virus attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems, and complications such as seizures and pneumonia can lead to death in dogs. Distemper can easily spread from wildlife to dogs through the air. That means living near a diseased raccoon is enough to expose a dog to the virus. Fortunately, there is a vaccine for distemper, and if you've taken your dog to the vet for routine care it's likely already protected. Most dogs receive their distemper vaccine at the same time as their parvovirus, canine adenovirus, and rabies shots. Dogs who haven't been vaccinated and older dogs with weakened immune systems are at the greatest risk of contracting distemper. As long as the distemper outbreak persists among the raccoon population in Riverside in Chicago, local police recommend that pet owners keep a close eye on their dogs. Pets should always be supervised when outside to keep them from interacting with wildlife. And when taking them to places with other dogs, like pet daycare centers, it's safest to choose businesses that require all canine guests to be vaccinated. Regardless of whether or not they own pets, Riverside residents can help pet owners in their neighborhood by looking out for sick raccoons. If they spot a raccoon displaying zombie-like behavior, they can alert the police to have it removed. [h/t Chicago Tribune]

The Tower of London Welcomes New Baby Ravens for the First Time in 30 Years

Some of the baby ravens born at the Tower of London
Some of the baby ravens born at the Tower of London
Tower of London Twitter (screenshot)

There are some new residents at the Tower of London. They're only about 11 inches tall, are very noisy, and eat rats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Fortunately, they're also adorable—not to mention protected by legend.

On May 17, the Tower of London announced that their breeding pair of ravens, Huginn and Muninn, had welcomed four healthy chicks, the first born at the Tower since 1989. The ravens are part of an unkindness that's been located at the Tower for centuries as a sort of protective asset. According to legend, the Tower must always have ravens, or both the Tower and the kingdom will fall. It's not exactly clear when the legend began, but according to the Tower, Charles II decreed there must always be six ravens present.

Huginn and Muninn are newer additions, having arrived at the Tower in late 2018, and they weren't expected to breed this spring. So it was a surprise in mid-April when the devoted Tower Ravenmaster, Yeoman Warder Chris Skaife, noticed something exciting going on. "My suspicions were first piqued that we might have a chance of baby chicks when the parents built a huge nest suddenly overnight and then almost immediately the female bird started to sit on it," Skaife said in a Tower press release. On April 23, Skaife noticed the birds flying to the nest with food, but it was only this week he was able to get close enough to see the four healthy chicks. The sight delighted him: "Having worked with the ravens here at the Tower for the last 13 years and getting to know each of them, I feel like a proud father!"

The chicks have grown quickly, already quadrupling in size since they were born, and eat a diet of quail, rats, and mice the Ravenmaster provides. The raven parents have an egalitarian feeding arrangement: Huginn, the male, preps the food and passes it to Muninn, the female, who feeds it to her tiny chicks.

The plan is for one of the chicks to stay at the Tower and join the rest of the ravens there. "As the ravens started to hatch on the 23 April, St. George’s Day, the raven that will be staying at the Tower will be called George or Georgina in honor of the occasion," the Tower explained in a press release. According to The Telegraph, the breeding program at the Tower kicked off in response to a decline in the number of legal raven breeders in the UK.

The last raven chick born at the Tower was Ronald Raven, born May 1, 1989. In his 2018 book, The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London, Skaife wrote that "a baby raven looks a bit like a grotesque miniature gargoyle, but then you see them grow and develop ... It really is wonderful."

The baby ravens born at the Tower of London in 2019
The baby ravens born at the Tower of London in 2019 making some noise
Yeoman Warder Chris Skaife

Dozens of Donkeys, Mini-Donkeys, and Baby Donkeys Are Looking for New Homes

iStock.com/huggy1
iStock.com/huggy1

Cats and dogs aren't the only rescue animals that need permanent homes. At the Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT), there are over 60 donkeys, miniature donkeys, baby donkeys, and Thoroughbred horses up for adoption, the Cleburne Times-Review reports.

Many of the equines at HSNT's ranch in Joshua, Texas came from owners who had to give them up, and others were transferred from different animal rescue groups. As part of the ASPCA’s Help A Horse Home Challenge, HSNT is hosting events to help find new homes for its horses and donkeys.

Between April 26 and June 30 this year, the ASPCA is challenging equine organizations to adopt out as many animals as they can. The groups that see the biggest increases in adoptions between this year and last year's Help A Horse Home Challenge will share $150,000 in grant funding. On May 18 and June 8, HSNT is holding open houses at its ranch for anyone interested in adopting an animal. The events will also be used as opportunities to educate the public about the demands of equine ownership.

If you're not free to swing by one of HSNT's open houses, you can still apply to adopt a horse or donkey. Interested owners can fill out and submit this form [PDF] to equine@hsnt.org. And if you'd like to spend time with baby and mini-donkeys without taking one home, HSNT is also looking for volunteers.

[h/t Cleburne Times-Review]

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