A pair of aggressive coyotes have been harassing California residents. One of the theories explaining the aggression is that those coyotes have been munching on psychedelic mushrooms.
West Marin has been plagued with these aggressive coyotes for nearly a month according to the Pacific Sun. They walk into the middle of Highway 1 in the middle of the night and stare down oncoming cars.
When the cars stop in order to avoid hitting the strange coyotes, the predators sniff around the automobiles, attack their tires, and then run back into the darkness. It has become a nightly ritual for commuters using the highway.
When reports began to reach authorities about the aggressive coyotes, officials were concerned that rabies might be a factor.
Rabies doesn’t immediately cause aggressive attributes in infected animals, though that’s what the disease is known for in pop culture. In fact, the aggressive stage only takes place about a week before the death of the infected host. When calls about the coyotes attacking cars kept reaching authorities after a couple of weeks, it was easy to rule out the vicious disease.
Once rabies was ruled out, authorities were left wondering what could possibly be causing the coyotes to approach and frighten humans.
Most sane and healthy animals, including predators, are more afraid of humans than humans are of them. As a result, they don’t tend to approach humans as a general rule, let alone run into traffic and confront their terrifyingly large cars.
That’s when the theory was born that suggested the aggressive coyotes of being high on psychedelic mushrooms.
The fly agaric mushroom (amanita muscaria) is a mushroom that grows around the same area that the aggressive coyotes have been seen in. Fly agaric is a poisonous mushroom that is often used to get high in many areas. After being parboiled, it loses some of its toxicity and causes a significant amount of hallucination.
It’s very common for dogs and coyotes to consume fly agaric in the wild. Too much of the poisonous fungus can result in death for the K9s, but eaten in smaller doses, it causes the animals to hallucinate.
Although it’s known that coyotes in the area may often chow down on fly agaric, the way the mushrooms affect animals hasn’t been studied in depth. The most that experts can say is that the mushrooms cause coyotes and other creatures to become extremely excitable after ingestion.
Lisa Bloch of the Marin Humane Society could not initially dispute the theory that psychedelic mushrooms had turned the coyotes aggressive, but as time passed the theory began to lose hold.
If the coyotes had been tripping on those magic mushrooms, they would have had to eat more every night for weeks and would be showing signs of poisoning by now. Some of the signs drivers would have reported seeing in the coyotes would include vomiting, bleeding, and seizures. No reports of such things have reached the authorities.
With the magic mushroom theory pretty much off the table, Bloch said that it’s most likely that someone had been feeding the coyotes from cars.
“One possibility is that the coyotes have been fed, and this is a real problem for us in Marin,” Bloch says. “It’s possible that someone was feeding them and thinking that it’s cool, and magical and mystical to have a coyote eating out of his hand.”
It might seem cool but feeding wild animals, like coyotes, causes them to lose their fear of humans and become aggressive.
Camilla Fox, the founder of Project Coyotes, would like to remind California residents that there’s a law preventing the feeding of wildlife.
“If there are bad apples out there who are feeding the coyotes, they need to stop,” says Fox. “They can be cited—there’s a law that was specifically enacted to stop people from feeding wildlife.”
[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]