Reindeer Tripping on Magic Mushrooms, and Other Tales of Animal Junkies
Human beings aren’t the only animals that like to get high.
As Santa’s reindeer get psyched up for the Big Delivery tonight, it is remotely possible that the North Pole Skyway Patrol will need to be on the lookout for intoxicated fliers. That’s because reindeer love to trip on psychedelic mushrooms, or more specifically fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria).
Many animals “have a natural desire to experience altered states of consciousness,” explains Andrew Haynes in The Pharmaceutical Journal. The white-spotted red-capped mushrooms, the ones garden gnomes like to perch upon, make reindeer behave, well, like someone high on mushrooms. They run around aimlessly, make strange noises and twitch their heads. And where fly agaric can be toxic to man, reindeer have no problem metabolizing the trippy fungi and pass the psychoactive ingredients through their urine. Many a reindeer herder has himself gotten wasted on this psychedelic piss.
Reindeer aren’t the only creatures fond of getting hammered. In Africa, boars, porcupines, gorillas and mandrills dig up the powerfully trippy roots of the iboga plant. Canadian mountain sheep go to great lengths, often severely damaging their teeth, to get to a psychoactive lichen that grows on rocks. Horses on the southwestern American plains get hooked on “locoweed.” Jaguars in the jungles of South America are reduced to a kitten-like state by chewing the bitter roots and bark of the yage vine. Indigenous tribes there also use the drug in their religious ceremonies; they may have learned about yage’s unique properties after watching the big cats. Peruvian legend tells of llamas getting high off coca leaves, the source of cocaine. Researchers have proven that garden snails who eat coca leaves are quicker up a glass rod than non-coca consuming snails by 25%. And water buffalo in south-east Asia get high off opium poppies. They even go through withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, restlessness and convulsions when they can’t find any of the flowers to eat.
Animals enjoy getting intoxicated in more traditional ways too. The use of alcohol by animals goes all the way back to biblical times, if you’re so inclined to believe such tales. Apparently Noah discovered wine after watching a goat get blitzed on fermented grapes. Today, woodland wildlife in North America get smashed by raiding illegal moonshine stills. Bears and elk get drunk and disorderly from eating fermenting fruit. Bees, wasps, hornets and other insects experience similar effects from ingesting alcohol along with sugars and yeasts from fruits, grains, nectar and sap. Like any drunken club-goer, intoxicated bees returning to their hives are often barred from entry by “bouncers” that will beat them up and even chew their legs off. Some birds that partake in the tipple overdo it to the point where they actually drink themselves to death.
So, this Christmas when you leave the milk and cookies out for Santa (what he really could use is a tall stein full of egg nog!), don’t forget to leave a cap or two of magic mushrooms for the reindeer… Blitzen wants to get blitzed!