There have been incidents of coyotes acting strangely and running at cars near towns in the San Francisco Bay area. It is thought the coyotes may have been high from eating hallucinogenic, or magic, mushrooms.
A report in the Pacific Sun noted that at least two coyotes appear to repeatedly run at cars close to Colinas and Stinson Beach, two beach communities near the Pacific Ocean around 25 miles from San Francisco.
The animals stand in the road and stare down passing cars, often causing the drivers to stop in order to avoid hitting the coyotes. Once the cars are stopped, the coyotes then run at the vehicles, snapping and sniffing at the cars before leaving the scene.
Oh, San Francisco. Coyotes running at cars near San Francisco could be 'high on magic mushrooms' https://t.co/GSYN4CkW3pOne witness told Pacific Sun, "It's a terrifying, yet beautiful, thing to behold."
— Andrea Kuszewski (@AndreaKuszewski) January 26, 2016
According to spokeswoman Lisa Bloch, a probe has now been launched by the Marin County Humane Society to investigate the bizarre behavior by the coyotes.
"We're trying to figure this out."While initially some drivers feared the coyotes were suffering from rabies, experts have quickly discounted this theory. Reportedly, while the disease does cause strange behavior by infected animals, rabies is extremely rare in this region and those animals which do contract it die quickly. In the case of the strange coyotes, the behavior has now been going on for several weeks.
The theory currently doing the rounds is that the coyotes are "tripping" after eating the fly agaric or magic mushrooms (Amanita muscaria). Reportedly, they have been photographed in the past tucking into the mushrooms in the wild. The red-capped and speckled mushrooms have psychoactive, hallucinogenic properties.
According to Bloch, both domestic dogs and coyotes do eat all kinds of mushrooms and have been known to suffer from "neurological excitability" seizures and even death from toxic mushrooms. Bloch said the Marin County Humane Society has been counseling dog owners recently on how to protect their animals from poisonous mushrooms growing in the wild.
Bloch says the animals may have been motivated by a driver who once fed the coyotes and may be chasing the cars, looking for more food. She has asked drivers who witness unusual behavior or aggression from coyotes to notify them immediately.
High coyotes!? what ever next! https://t.co/xaGfulck1VCamilla Fox of Project Coyote also thinks humans feeding the coyotes is the far more logical explanation. The group is responsible for the many signs seen around the West Marin trail heads which read, "A fed coyote is a dead coyote."
— Becky M (@KnightMaiden) January 25, 2016
According to the International Business Times, coyotes were eradicated from Marin County back in the 1950s due to the threat the animals posed to cattle. However, they are gradually creeping back. There are reportedly now around 750,000 coyotes in California, including many in the Marin County area.
As for the mushrooms themselves, fly agaric mushrooms have a long history of use in shamanistic practices in Siberia, India, Iran, and northern Europe, where they were once revered as a sacred hallucinogen.
Another article about coyotes tells of the brave elderly woman who saved her neighbor's dogs from being killed by five of the wily animals.