Side Note

Climate change means we’re going to see more drunk animals

That seems... bad?

Did you read the viral story about the drunk raccoons? It was a very funny thing to read about, until it turned out that the raccoons were not drunk and in fact had been infected with distemper. Life is hard, and what seems cute and fun can often end up being quite sad and a little disturbing.

Anyways, animals actually do get drunk. Not a lot, but definitely more than you’d assume. It works like this: when fruits and berries freeze, their starches become sugars; after they warm up, those sugars end up fermenting, creating little booze bombs for any hungry animals who stumble across them. Once the alcohol hits them, some animals decide to find a non-intoxicating snack elsewhere, but others get really into it.

A sudden cold snap — such as the one that just dumped six inches of snow onto New York City — followed by a subsequent return to normal temperatures is the exact sort of thing that can create batches of alcoholic berries. Will the hot duck get drunk as a way to cope with its newfound fame? What about the pizza rat? I weep for New York’s meme animals, and also all the animals who are not memes, for they have unintentionally waddled, crawled, scurried, and flown into nature’s happy hour.

As the earth heats up, meanwhile, ecosystems that once experienced continuous frosts in the winter are now being interrupted by periodic thaws, creating an ever-growing potential for fruit fermentation each spring. Increasing intoxication among our animal friends is less of an existential threat brought on by our changing climate than, say, massive wildfires out in California, but it’s eerie in a sort of “end of days” type of way.

So the next time you see some viral story about a drunk rabbit or bear or whatever, just remember that it’s not actually the result of animals being silly but is instead a side-effect of us screwing the environment up.