Hallucinogenic mushrooms might be to blame for crazy coyote behavior in California

Walking the line.
Walking the line.
Image: Flickr user Scott Nolan (licensed under CC-BY-2.0; image has been cropped)
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Motorists in Bolinas, California have been baffled and sometimes scared by coyotes on a local highway this winter, and psychedelic fungus may be to blame.

According to various news reports, the “terrifying, yet beautiful” encounters happen at night when a coyote stands in the middle of the road and “stares down” or even runs toward an approaching car, forcing the driver to stop. The coyote then circles and sniffs the automobile before fleeing.

Traffic is generally light on this section of the road during late night hours, so the incidents have been one-on-one coyote-car confrontations, so far. Local witnesses think that two different coyotes may be perpetrating the “attacks.”

They also have a theory that the coyotes are tripping on hallucinogenic mushrooms. Lisa Bloch, who works for the local humane society, told the Pacific Sun that she’s recently warned dog owners about poisonous mushrooms in the area, including a psychoactive one called the fly agaric mushroom.

Wildlife officials first suspected that the coyote, or coyotes, had rabies—a viral infection that prompts hyperactive and aggressive behavior in wild mammals. But animals with rabies don’t stay alive for more than a few days after contracting it, and the Highway 1 coyote run-ins have been happening for more than three weeks now.

Having ruled out rabies, authorities are considering two other causes: mushrooms or human ignorance. If humans in the area have been feeding the coyotes—despite expert guidelines that say you should never feed wild animals—the coyotes might feel more comfortable around cars and motivated to pursue cars for food.

It’s also possible that the people who’ve reported experiencing “terrifying, yet beautiful” coyote run-ins were high on hallucinogenic substances themselves.

Image above by Flickr user Scott Nolan (licensed under CC BY 2.0). The image has been cropped. Facebook image by Flickr user Franco Folini (licensed under CC BY SA 2.0). The image has been cropped.