Police in Milton, West Virginia, have delivered some upsetting news about two oddly behaving raccoons that were originally thought to be drunk on fermented crab apples.
At least one of the raccoons actually appears to have had distemper, a highly contagious illness, and had to be euthanized.
The Milton Police Department explained what had happened in a detailed Facebook post on Thursday.
On Nov. 9, police trapped a raccoon suspected to be rabid, but they concluded the animal was likely just drunk on the fermented fruit due to “his proximity to the crabapple tree, his actions and appearance.”
The next day, police trapped a second raccoon reportedly acting strangely. Believing this one was also just drunk, they released it. Both raccoons were returned to the wild, and the department’s Facebook post about the supposedly “drunk” raccoons went massively viral.
But on Wednesday, when police received a report about a third raccoon falling out of a tree, they brought in a local wildlife rescue group, Point of View Farm. That group suggested that the animals may be suffering from distemper, a serious viral disease that can be transmitted to other animals, including dogs. (It does not pose a health a risk to humans, and dogs can be vaccinated against it.)
The police were then able to track down the second raccoon they’d trapped, and found it “continuously seizing” just 10 feet from where they’d released it. That raccoon and the third raccoon that fell from the tree were both euthanized.
Police did not locate the first raccoon they’d trapped, but the department wrote on Facebook that it hoped the animal “was in fact drunk on crabapples, has sobered up and is thriving in the wild as he should be.”
This has been updated.