Alcohol is an intoxicating drink, not a delicious snack for squirrels – as one of the bushy-tailed tree-scramblers recently found out the hard way.
The thrilling episode unfolded in a beautiful tree-filled garden in Inver Grove Heights, a city on the outskirts of Minneapolis in Minnesota, after a woman apparently fed the squirrel some fermented pears.
Kathleen Morlock told Fox News she had been cleaning out her fridge when she found the forgotten pears, so decided to give them to her squirrel companion who she had been feeding while working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Morlock has named the squirrel “Lil Red”, and said after she put the pears out in her garden, the animal took them and ran away up a tree. But an hour later, he returned, and she noticed “he was acting funny”.
“He was tipping back a little bit and I thought ‘oh, I hope he’s OK’, then it dawned on me, those pears were so old I bet they fermented and he got drunk. And I did not mean to do that so I went out and grabbed all the pears – I’d put the rest out thinking he’d liked them – I grabbed them and threw them away. The poor little guy, he was drunk.”
The footage shot by Ms Morlock shows the squirrel at its feeding platform, rocking on his hind legs, with his little hands tucked up under his chest, and gazing searchingly at the sky.
As his mysterious squirrel speculations seem to become increasingly intense, his grip on the physical world wanes and he seemingly loses a degree of control of his faculties.
His upper body begins leaning further and further off to one side, his back arching as his head lolls backwards until the whole rodent nearly topples from his perch.
Just as Lil Red looks as though he’s about to come crashing to the ground, he regains his balance but begins his wild 100-yard stare into space all over again.
Fortunately, the squirrel appeared to come to no serious harm, as his behaviour has now returned to normal.
“In the morning, he came back for his little hangover breakfast and he’s been fine ever since,” Ms Morlock said.
This is not the first time Ms Morlok has posted a video which has become a viral sensation on the internet. As well as her resident squirrel she has a pet mini pig named Hamlet. A video she made of Hamlet being enticed down the stairs by a bowl of oatmeal when he was a piglet went viral about nine years ago. It is excellent. Watch to the end.
Creatures opting to consume intoxicating substances is not unknown in the animal world.
The pen-tailed treeshrew from Malaysia gobbles nectar from the flowers of the bertam palm, which has one of the highest alcohol levels recorded in a naturally occurring food – at up to 3.8 per cent concentration. The booze apparently has little noticeable effect on these would-be lightweights.
Some bats are also happy to nibble away at fermented fruits before taking to the skies in drink-flying instances – though they also appear to know their limits, with no ill effects reported, according to the National Geographic.
However, the same can’t be said of moose. In 2011 one of the creatures, also known as elk, got juiced on fermented apples, and tottered into a low-standing apple tree and collapsed in a roaring heap, until it walked off in the morning.
But Simon Cowell, the chief executive of the UK’s Wildlife Aid Foundation, warned purposefully giving wild animals alcohol is bad for them, as well as “cruel, inhumane and very likely in contravention of animal welfare laws”.
He told The Independent: “We have often treated animals suffering from the effects of ethanol poisoning, such as deer which have eaten too many fermented apples, and it is harrowing to see the suffering this causes. Many die of the effects. The danger with videos like this, and with treating them as comic content, is that people think they are funny and try to replicate them. It is irresponsible to treat them as comedy, when in reality an animal is suffering.”
Asked how alcohol could affect squirrels, Mr Cowell said: “It would probably do irreparable damage to its internal organs.”
A spokesperson for The Wildlife Trusts told The Independent: “The only Christmas tipple we’d recommend for wildlife is water, it certainly sounds as if the squirrel could do with some hydration! It’s also essential that our wild fresh waters, ponds and rivers are clean.
“Over Christmas we’d encourage people to love nature and look after it.”