It’s an interesting confluence of climate, evolution, and chemistry — but residents of Milton don’t find it amusing at all.
Drunk raccoons are terrorizing a West Virginia town, thanks to an early winter bringing an abundance of rotting crab apples for the mammals to eat, intoxicating them.
As KARE-TV (Minneapolis) reports, residents of Milton, West Virginia, at first thought that their town had been besieged by rabid raccoons. So alarming was the sight of the “staggering, disoriented” raccoons that residents thought, at first, that they were dealing with a rabies infestation. Many citizens called Animal Control. However, police eventually learned that the problem was something far more mundane — and far less alarming. The raccoons were simply drunk.
The problem here is that three scientific disciplines — chemistry, climate, and animal science — all converged to create the problem. Ordinarily, the majority of North American animals have nested down for the winter by the time the trees start shedding their fruit — fruit which will rot on the ground and, in the process, undergo a fermentation process that produces alcohol.
This year, as an early frost came to Milton, the crab apple trees shed their fruit — which started to rot. Enterprising raccoons, which will eat anything, saw the fruit, ate it, and got buzzed.
It’s not too big of a deal, however. Just as with humans and other mammals, intoxicated raccoons generally act stupid for a while, sleep it off, and are no worse for wear the next morning. The scientific literature is woefully thin on research on non-human hangovers, however.
However, animal drunkenness can still cause problems. Intoxicated animals may lose their fear of humans, and can be aggressive, for example. Or they may be more likely to wander into traffic.
The residents of Gilbert, Minnesota, found out just how menacing drunk animals can be earlier this fall. As reported at the time by the Inquisitr, an early frost caused some plants to shed their berries prematurely — before the birds had flown south for the winter — and the avians ate the rotting fruit and got drunk.
The fallout wasn’t at all funny. The disoriented animals flew headfirst into cars, or lost their balance and fell out of trees. Fortunately, the Gilbert police had a good sense of humor about it, telling residents not to call the cops about the drunk birds — unless they were committing actual crimes, like running in and out of traffic while being chased by a coyote, or trying to push beagles off of doghouse roofs.
The police were comedically referencing cartoon characters from the Looney Tunes canon as well as the Peanuts series.
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