From bears to bats, a whole range of animals have discovered the dangerous vices of alcohol and drugs. Most manage to find their narcotics naturally in the wild, although some have unfortunately found human substances to be more effective at getting them high. We don’t necessarily condone the unhealthy habits of these substance-abusing beasts, but their rock’n’roll lifestyles make for some fascinating reading.
In Alaska, the ‘magic’ mushroom known as amanita muscaria grows abundantly. It’s not just humans who like to forage for the hallucinogenic fungus—the local reindeer are also known for eating them too. Since the whacky mushroom’s chemicals don’t disappear after going through the deer’s system, native shamans have been known to collect reindeer urine and drink it in order to get high. Maybe that explains the whole flying reindeer thing…
The innocent honey bee doesn’t seem like much of a lager lout, but they do like to get tipsy on occasion. Being lightweights, they get drunk on everything from fermented fruit to leftover dregs in a beer or wine glass. Sober bees don’t tend to tolerate these daylight drinkers in their hive, attacking their booze-addled comrades in a show of leg-snapping violence that makes human bar fights look positively timid by comparison.
Bats, on the other hand, know how to handle their drink. Often the fruit they eat has had a chance to ferment, meaning that they are regular consumers of alcohol. But in a study of drunken bats, they could still successfully fly through an obstacle course, using the nifty navigational skills afforded by echolocation.
On the Kronotsky Nature Reserve in East Russia, brown bears have been spotted playing with barrels of fuel (usually used for the reserve’s generators and helicopters), taking large sniffs of the kerosine and gasoline inside before lying back in the snow, giddy from the rush of fumes. They’re some of the largest bears in the world, weighing in at around 1200lbs, but the powerful chemicals seem to be strong enough for them.
Dolphins enjoy chewing pufferfish in order to get high off of the nerve toxins they eject when they’re frightened. Once they get their hit, the dolphins float up to the water’s surface in an enjoyable trance, seemingly hypnotised by their own reflections.
A rat-sized mammal called the pen-tailed tree shrew enjoys going on booze-fuelled benders after drinking naturally fermented nectar from the flowers of the bertram palm. The animals spend two hours a night drinking the potent nectar, which has a 3.8 percent alcohol strength, similar to an average pint of beer.
A rare species of yellow-green lichen that grows in the Canadian Rockies is the Bighorn sheep’s drug of choice. It can take a decade for a patch of the lichen to grow on a single rock and it has no nutritional value whatsoever, but it gets the sheep high and they love it so much that they’ve been seen risking their lives to get to the remote part of mountains where it grows.