Drunk As A… Raccoon? Fermenting Food Leads To Buzz For Wildlife

You’ve heard the saying drunk as a skunk, but how about drunk as a raccoon? A few of these masked creatures are making headlines after having a little too much fun on the streets one night.  

Rowdy Raccoons

If you’re a homeowner, you’ve likely had your share of run-ins with raccoons. They have the uncanny ability to know when you’ve put the trash out early or failed to close the lid properly. Even if you have, they’re smart and agile, and after devouring your leftovers, leave a disgusting mess for you to clean in the morning. Oh… the mess.

But falling out of trees? Staggering and appearing disoriented? Residents in Milton, West Virginia assumed such strange behavior meant they’d been invaded by rabid raccoons. It turns out they were actually inebriated.

That’s right; drunk. The raccoons had just chowed down on fermented crab apples that had been left on the ground. Police say the animals were held behind bars for a night and released back into the woods with a warning after sobering up.

Fermentation is the process of converting sugar into alcohol with yeast. You can make alcohol with just about any kind of fruit, and it happens in nature without human intervention all the time.

The “Wild” Life

Drunk and disorderly conduct amongst wildlife is actually a pretty common occurrence. According to Smithsonian.com, drunken moose are very common in Sweden during the autumn months when they snack on fermented apples. One moose was even found tangled up and passed out in a tree. What a night!

In Minnesota earlier this year, birds were partying like it’s 1999, flying into windows and crashing into cars, appearing overall to be very dazed and confused. They’d been enjoying extra special berries (think vodka cranberry).

Officials blamed the bender on an early frost, which triggered fermentation in the local berries. With most of the bird population still in Minnesota when the cold hit, they were tricked into a drunken stupor.

Dumpsters and Diabetes

While there’s little we as humans can do to control the natural fermentation process, there are things we can do to keep the animals around us safe. Raccoons are actually facing somewhat of a health crisis eating all of our scraps. In fact, Canadian researchers say many of them are battling obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even diabetes.

Think about it; pigging out on the stuff thrown into our compost bin and garbage cans means they have access to all kinds of things they shouldn’t be eating.

A study by Ontario researchers found that raccoons with access to human food waste were much heavier and had higher blood glucose levels than others.

Published in the journal Conservation Physiology, the study compared the health of city raccoons to that of raccoons living in rural areas with little or no access to garbage.

The blood glucose level of city-dwelling raccoons was more than double the levels recorded in the country. High fat, high salt diets aren’t good for us, and they’re not good for animals either.

Humane Critter Control

Many towns and municipalities are issuing better collection bins now, whether it be for compost, garbage, or recycling. The compost bin I have has a lock on it to keep the critters out.

I have a great book called Humane Critter Control: The Guide to Natural, Nontoxic Pest Solutions to Protect your Yard and Garden, written by Theresa Rooney. I love this guide; it helped me through somewhat of a crisis involving deer and my veggie garden this summer and offers plenty of tips and tricks to humanely handling any kind of invader from the animal kingdom. Not to mention, the illustrations are cool.

Rooney makes the following suggestions when it comes to keeping the raccoons off your property:

  • If you don’t have a waste bin that locks, think about using bungee cords to keep it shut.
  • Clean up any birdseed and/or fruit that may have fallen from trees and shrubs in your yard.
  • Use strong-smelling scent repellants or hot pepper sprays in areas you want to protect.
  • Installing motion-activated lighting and sprinklers.

Once raccoons successfully break into your food waste and/or garbage once, they’ll remember how to do it for up to three years. Their memories are incredible; although, maybe not quite as good after a night of eating fermented fruit.

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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.