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]

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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A Prehistoric Great White Shark Nursery Has Been Discovered in Chile

Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
Great white sharks used prehistoric nurseries to protect their young.
solarseven/iStock via Getty Images

Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) may be one of the most formidable and frightening apex predators on the planet today, but life for them isn’t as easy as horror movies would suggest. Due to a slow growth rate and the fact that they produce few offspring, the species is listed as vulnerable to extinction.

There is a way these sharks ensure survival, and that is by creating nurseries—a designated place where great white shark babies (called pups) are protected from other predators. Now, researchers at the University of Vienna and colleagues have discovered these nurseries occurred in prehistoric times.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Jamie A. Villafaña from the university’s Institute of Palaeontology describes a fossilized nursery found in Coquimbo, Chile. Researchers were examining a collection of fossilized great white shark teeth between 5 and 2 million years old along the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru when they noticed a disproportionate number of young shark teeth in Coquimbo. There was also a total lack of sexually mature animals' teeth, which suggests the site was used primarily by pups and juveniles as a nursery.

Though modern great whites are known to guard their young in designated areas, the researchers say this is the first example of a paleo-nursery. Because the climate was much warmer when the paleo-nursery was in use, the researchers think these protective environments can deepen our understanding of how great white sharks can survive global warming trends.