Residents warned to steer clear of 'Zombie dogs'
THEY look just like neglected stray dogs, down on their luck and eager for a kind person to take them in for a bath and a feed.
But authorities have labelled them 'zombie dogs' and warned locals in one Chicago suburb to avoid them at all costs.
Rather than homeless pets, the Hanover Park Police Department in the US city said they're actually wild coyotes infected with a contagious disease.
The coyotes, usually nocturnal animals, are infected with sarcoptic mange that causes them to be active in the day.
Contact with other animals can spread the sickness, authorities warned. A number of locals had made reports about the 'strays', prompting police to speak out.
"Infected animals will often appear 'mangy' -- which looks just like it sounds. They suffer hair loss and develop secondary infections, eventually looking like some sort of 'zombie' dog," they said.
Police said the infected coyotes aren't "typically aggressive," but warned residents in the area to avoid them and keep them away from their pets, who can catch the contagious disease.
"Please DO NOT approach these animals or allow your pets to approach them."
"You can avoid attracting them to your yards and neighbourhoods by not leaving food out and by securing your garbage," the department said.
It's common to spot coyotes in Illinois, especially in the southern, southeastern and west-central parts, according to the state's Department of Natural Resources.