It's not completely uncommon to stumble across a news piece about an animal getting drunk and causing a little havoc in a small town or a campsite. But these critters probably aren't trying to imbibe on purpose—more than likely, they earned their buzz by getting into some beer cans that were left outdoors or accidentally nibbling on fermented berries or apples. Intentional or not, the stories are usually entertaining, resulting in a few startled townspeople getting their 15 minutes of fame in the local paper and a raccoon or a moose that has to nurse a hangover the day after. Here are just a few of our favorite stories about drunken animals or insects from over the years.
In early September 2019, residents in Ottawa, Canada, spotted a few raccoons staggering around in the daylight and grew panicky enough to call the cops. "[One raccoon] couldn't really move. He was dragging his legs, he was wobbling, having a hard time standing up," one resident told CBC News. "You could tell something was wrong with him for sure."
As it turns out, these normally nocturnal animals weren't dangerous or rabid; they had simply gotten drunk from eating too many fermented crab apples. Over the next few days, the sight of drunken raccoons stumbling around and passing out on people's property became all too common.
“It’s possible that some of the fruit is fermenting under the heat, and that these guys are getting a bit tipsy by eating that fermenting fruit,” Michael Runtz, a biology professor at Ottawa's Carleton University, told CBC News. He suggested to leave the critters alone and let them sleep off their hangover.
In 2004, at Baker Lake Resort in Washington State, NBC News reported that a black bear drank 36 cans of local Rainier beer and one can of Busch (which the surprisingly snobbish bear was not a fan of) after breaking into a camper's cooler. Fish and Wildlife agents found the bear passed out, and when it awoke, it climbed up a tree only to fall asleep again. The next day, the agents humanely trapped the bear using doughnuts, honey, and, yes, more Rainier, and relocated it away from the campsite.
3., 4., and 5. Birds
In October 2018, Gilbert, Minnesota, residents reported that robins and other birds seemed to be inebriated, because they kept flying into windows, acting confused, crashing into car windshields, and just generally flopping around. The story about these seemingly drunk birds soon went viral, even though experts stated that it was a little early in the season for the berries that the birds were eating to become fermented. The town’s police chief, Ty Techar, told The New York Times that while he couldn’t find definitive proof they were actually drunk, he saw enough for his law enforcement instincts to kick in. “I didn’t have a chance to give them a Breathalyzer test,” he said. “But you can tell.”
In November 2014, Bohemian waxwing birds in Canada’s Yukon Territory kept stuffing themselves with fermented mountain ash berries, resulting in some erratic flights around town. Meghan Larivee, who worked for Environment Yukon’s animal health unit, transformed a plastic hamster cage into an avian drunk tank so the boozy birds could sleep it off. “We just make sure that they’re comfortable and quiet, and then hopefully they get to be released,” Larivee told PRI. But before they were released, they had to pass the bird equivalent of a roadside sobriety test.
In July 2018, Metro reported that more than 30 seagulls on the beaches near Somerset, England, got drunk on either leftover booze humans abandoned or from ingesting a grain from nearby breweries. Either way, for two weeks RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) centers in Somerset, Devon, and Dorset collected the alcohol-reeking birds, one of which drunkenly vomited on a firefighter who was carrying it to get treatment.
In 2013, the Independent reported a feral pig stole and drank three six-packs of beer from a riverside campsite in Port Hedland, Australia. While intoxicated, the pig ransacked trash bins and then supposedly picked a fight with cow. The pig then took a swim in a river and slept off its drunkenness under a tree.
In Anchorage, Alaska, a moose named Buzzwinkle became famous for causing chaos during the 2007 holiday season, the Anchorage Daily News reported. It started when he got his antlers tangled in a set of LED Christmas lights that adorned a public holiday tree display. When he got himself free, he trotted through traffic near Town Square Park, still dragging some of the lights behind him. Then, he stopped off at the courtyard at Bernie’s Bungalow Lounge where he indulged on some fermented crabapples (notice a trend here?) and earned himself a buzz. By this point, he appeared disoriented, just staring into the void and snorting out steam. Since he wasn’t acting unruly, the folks at Bernie’s let him stay in the fenced-in courtyard until he sobered up.
In August 2018, thousands of wasps got drunk on the nectar of fermented fruit and cider from beer gardens in the UK. Wasps can be dangerous on their own, but a drunken wasp? Watch out. The wasps were in search of sugar—by the summer, work and food are scarce for wasps—and just one sip of cider or beer can get them sloshed. “Wasps can’t handle their booze, so they get tanked-up and fighty—like lager louts,” pest control expert Shane Jones said.
In 2013, the local news in Sweden reported that five drunken, belligerent elk were preventing a resident from entering his home. The culprit was again fermented apples, which had fallen from a tree on the homeowner's property. When police arrived, the elk finally decided to leave on their own terms. And in order to avoid future incidents, the police advised the man to remove the fruit from his property. This was the second time elk had tormented the unfortunate homeowner: A couple of years prior, a drunken elk chased his wife from the yard into the house.
In 2015, in Worcestershire, England, a squirrel broke into the private Honeybourne Railway Club. The secretary of the club, Sam Boulter, told BBC he found glasses tipped over, bottles smashed, and money scattered around the bar. Who could do such a thing? Then he saw a woozy squirrel emerge from behind a bag of potato chips.
“I’ve never seen a drunk squirrel before. He was sozzled and looked a bit worse for wear, shall we say,” Boulter said. He surmised the squirrel ran across the bar and accidentally turned on the tap. It’s unclear if the squirrel was indeed drunk, but it probably drank the beer thinking it was water. Though the squirrel caused about $370 in damages, it wasn’t forced to pay its tab—Boulter caught it and released it out of the window.
St. Kitts in the Caribbean is home to drunk vervet monkeys that finish cocktails vacationers leave behind; some even steal the drinks right from these tourists' hands. The monkeys used to get their sugar fix from sugarcane, but the industry has collapsed, thus forcing them to roam into tourist areas. In fact, BBC reported the monkeys—even the sober ones—are giving farmers, residents, and tourists headaches.
All That’s Interesting reported a research project studied the effects of booze on these monkeys. They gave alcohol to 1000 green vervet monkeys and discovered their drinking habits can be divided into four categories: binge drinker, steady drinker, social drinker, and teetotaler. Most of the monkeys landed in the social category, but 5 percent got classified as “seriously abusive binge drinkers,” which means they get drunk and start fights and drink until they pass out.