Like so many other German cities and towns this time of year, the centrally-located city of Erfurt has set up its Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas Market. These temporary, four-week markets are as much about food and drink — particularly gluhwein, or mulled wine — as they are about gifts and meeting Kris Kringle.
It seems like the local wildlife around Erfurt has picked up on that knowledge.
Wherever there are hordes of people eating and drinking, there are delicious food scraps for scavenging animals like raccoons to take advantage of. In the case of the Christmas Market, there were plenty of discarded cups with a few delicious, raccoon-sized sips of wine left in them.
One raccoon appeared to have enjoyed the wine a bit too much. The “obviously intoxicated” animal staggered around the market, much to the amusement of tourists. He played with a woman’s shoe, stopped for a breather, and eventually passed out.
A police spokesperson, relying on typically-sardonic German humor, noted that it is only an assumption that the animal was drunk.
“A breathalyzer test on the animal was not carried out,” they said.
Police eventually corralled the sloshed beast and took him to a veterinarian. However, the animal was then given to a hunter who shot and killed him. Why the animal was put down remains unclear.
Animals have been getting intoxicated for as long as humans have been observing them, and perhaps longer than that. After all, natural fermentation does take place. Fruit drops from trees and — if left untouched for long enough — will eventually form alcohol as a byproduct of its decomposition. Often, an animal will eat the decomposing fruit and become inebriated.
Don Moore, associate director of the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC, says via National Geographic that he’s observed animals getting drunk first-hand.
“I’ve watched white-tailed deer eating fermented apples in orchards,” he said, noting that the animals get “sleepy” and “stumble-y.”
Christmas markets have been going on for centuries. Dresden’s, for example, dates back to 1434. The markets offer shoppers the opportunity to purchase goods to put in each other’s stockings, but the real draw is the food and drink. Toasted almonds, gingerbread cookies, bratwurst, and of course, various libations keep shoppers’ — and, apparently, raccoons’ — tummies warm.