Residents of a Chicago suburb were warned by the police to avoid helping "zombie dogs," which they said were infected coyotes that could end up passing the disease to their pets. 

According to the officials, these coyotes are infected with a virus called the sarcoptic mange, a highly contagious skin disease that makes them look like the undead. 

Police in Hanover Park issued the warning in a Facebook post Wednesday after receiving several reports that malnourished or neglected stray dogs were roaming around the Illinois village.

A coyote, also known as the American jackal and a little smaller than the gray wolf, is a canid native which is adaptable to environments modified by humans.

When living in close proximity to humans, coyotes are usually nocturnal animals. However, the officials said being infected with sarcoptic mange causes them to become active in the day.

As a species, Coyotes are highly susceptible to infections by a wide range of parasites including fleas, intestinal worms, and heartworms.  Some are also infected with canine distemper, parvovirus, and mange. 

Sarcoptic mange is a highly infectious skin disease found in dogs and is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei or the itch mite. These mites present in the skin cause itching and irritation. The scratching causes the animal’s hair to fall out. It is a treatable condition, but highly transmittable to both animal and humans. The most common cause of dogs catching up mange is getting exposed to an infected animal. 

In light of this, the department issued the warning on their Facebook page, saying, “There is, unfortunately, an increase in sarcoptic mange in the urban coyote populations which has caused these normally nocturnal animals to become more active during the day.”

The department advised people to not approach the infected animals and leave out food in the yard or neighborhood; they also posted pictures of how an infected coyote looked like in case the residents spotted them. 

Although the Department of Natural Resources states that coyotes are commonly found in Illinois, especially in the southern, southeastern and west-central parts, there has not been a single case of a coyote biting or attacking a human in the area as yet, according to Urban Coyote Research

However to be careful and out of harm’s way, if a coyote is causing any trouble in your neighborhood such as growling, chasing or stalking, you should immediately report it to the local authorities, namely animal control, police department, or local DNR office. They will offer you advice for the further course of action. 

According to Urban Coyote Research, the presence of a coyote is not a reason for alarm as they end up improving the ecological condition of your surroundings by killing off rodents and geese. But, if the coyote is causing a nuisance on your property or trying to harm a human or a pet, it is better to hire a private trapper to get the animal removed from the neighborhood.