Drunkard Animals: 8 Creatures That Consume Fermented Fruit or Drinks

A monkey holds up a bottle for inspection.

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Humans aren't alone when it comes to the ways that alcohol impacts our bodies. Many of our animal cousins who somehow manage to imbibe experience the same unsettling and often dangerous effects of alcohol that we do. From monkeys that stake out tourist bars and swipe tropical cocktails, to a moose unknowingly eating fermented apples, animals have had plenty of run-ins with some form of alcohol consumption. While there's plenty of evidence that points to some animals having a distinct intent to drink up, others stumble into a drunken stupor by accident.

The following animals eat fermented fruits or drink alcoholic beverages, sometimes with disastrous results.

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Elephants

An elephant uses its trunk to pour into a woman's glass.

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A 10,000-pound adult elephant equipped with a tusk and massive feet made for squashing? Talk about a recipe for danger, to both the elephant and any human or animal nearby. Keep in mind that for one slightly smaller 6,600 pound elephant to get drunk, researchers calculated that it would need to consume up to seven gallons of alcohol. But there have been a couple of incidents of elephants binging out that point to the possibility of them being a bit more lightweight than expected. In 2010, elephants destroyed 60 houses in a village in India after they found the villagers' supply of a local brew, a drink made from fermented rice. They rampaged through town for a while and then passed out, mirroring a more recent incident in China's Yunnan province, where two elephants were found snoozing in a tea garden after gulping down around eight gallons of local rice wine.

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Bears

A black bear tries to drink from a spray of water.

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Bears may not be as large as elephants, but no one would dare call them tiny either. Their overpowering size becomes a serious issue when alcohol gets involved. In 2004, Washington state Fish and Wildlife agents found a black bear passed out on the lawn of the Baker Lake Resort. The animal wasn't sleeping and he wasn't injured: He was drunk. The bear had raided the coolers of nearby campers, then downed can after can of beer. For some reason, it specifically chose to target cans of Rainier Beer among the lot. The bear was captured for relocation — lured in with doughnuts, honey, and, two cans of Rainier.

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Monkeys

A monkey sitting on a beach stares at a beer bottle.

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Monkeys have a well-documented love of alcohol. When you consider that humans and some primates share around 1,100 genes, it makes sense that some of them would share our complicated relationship with alcohol, too. Monkeys have been observed stealing drinks from tourists at tropical destinations all over the world. In 2006, researchers found that the drinking patterns of rhesus macaque monkeys actually closely match those of humans, lending credence to the idea that monkeys share more than just some X and Y chromosomes with humans.

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Shrews

A shrew stands on a branch.

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In 2008, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the pentailed tree shrew, a tiny animal living in the Malaysian rainforest, had a habit of revisiting the bertam palm tree every night to suckle on its naturally fermented nectar. Researchers found that the nectar had 3.8 percent alcohol content, about the same as a weak beer. The shrew was seen returning to the tree up to three times in a night to get its fix. Oddly enough, the shrews weren't seen exhibiting signs of drunkenness.

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Moose

A moose walks through a forest trail.

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In 2011, a moose was found stuck in a tree in Sweden. Apparently, the animal became entangled in the limbs of a small tree after eating fermented apples, which can be found in abundance in yards and fields in the fall. The drunken moose was caught with three legs off the ground and was eventually freed by a local man, a hunter, and the fire department. The animal was woozy but otherwise fine.

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Squirrels

A squirrel upright and squinting.

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In another case of some funky fermented fruit action, a Minnesota squirrel unwittingly gobbled up a too-far-gone pear along with its alcoholic juices in late 2020. It got its hands on the fermented fruit after local animal lover Katy Morlok put out a couple of old pears in her yard for nearby critters to eat. Morlok had offered fruit to the animals this way many times before, so the last thing she expected to see was one of her squirrel regulars swaying haphazardly after another uneventful donation. After realizing what was really happening, Morlok expressed concern for the squirrel in its drunken state. Thankfully, she claimed it was back for more food the next morning and looking as lively as ever.

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Dogs

A dog lying on its side among wine bottles.

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The American Kennel Club warns that dogs could have a serious reaction to alcoholic beverages. That doesn't stop some dogs, whose owners share reports of stolen beers by their pooch. The organization states that dogs and humans have a similar bodily response when it comes to intoxication from alcohol. While it might sound like fun to witness your doggo getting a bit tipsy with you at dinner, alcohol — along with any sweeteners used, like xylitol, that are harmful to dogs — could prove fatal to your loyal companion. A much better idea is to safely secure your booze, and instead consider products like CBD-infused treats that could help your dog cope with pain, anxiety, and more.

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Bats

A bat drinks from a cup.

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Researchers studying bats in northern Belize wanted to find out how bats were affected by the fermented fruit they often eat. After catching some for the research, they fed bats a small alcoholic concoction. Scientists were surprised that the bats seemed hardly affected by the alcohol. The bats flew straight when tested, and were also able to avoid obstacles placed along their path by the research team. Explaining their findings, researchers told National Geographic that there was no "slurring" in the bats' echolocation calls as they navigated the forest floor.

View Article Sources
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  4. Wiens, Frank, et al. "Chronic Intake of Fermented Floral Nectar by Wild Treeshrews." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 105, no. 30, 2008, pp. 10426-10431. doi:10.1073/pnas.0801628105

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