Ottawa

'Drunk' raccoons seen stumbling around Stittsville

Inebriated raccoons have been spotted stumbling around Stittsville and sleeping off their hangovers in broad daylight, residents say.

Normally nocturnal animals likely overindulged on fermented fruit, naturalist says

Emily Rodgers snapped this photo of an apparently intoxicated raccoon in her backyard. She said the animal was lethargic and struggling to stand up. (Emily Rodgers)

Inebriated raccoons have been spotted stumbling around Stittsville and sleeping off their hangovers in broad daylight, residents say.

On Monday, Emily Rodgers arrived home to find one of the normally nocturnal creatures nearly knocked out in her southwest Ottawa backyard.

He couldn't really move. He was dragging his legs, he was wobbling, having a hard time standing up.- Emily Rodgers, Stittsville resident

"He couldn't really move. He was dragging his legs, he was wobbling, having a hard time standing up. You could tell something was wrong with him for sure," Rodgers said. 

After watching the raccoon for several hours, Rodgers called 311 and city workers came to remove the animal. 

The previous day, Julie Fong had a similar experience when a bylaw officer came to her door seeking access to the backyard. There'd been a call about a raccoon in the area that appeared intoxicated, the officer told her.

"So that's why this guy was kind of sleeping it off under our deck," Fong said. "There was a drunk raccoon under our deck."

This video, submitted by resident Julie Fong, appears to show a lethargic raccoon lying on a walking path. Experts say the animals are likely overindulging on fermented fruit. 0:11

Fong assumed it was the same animal her husband had seen stumbling down a path and resting on a fence behind their house earlier that day. 

"He said it was sort of stumbling along, just looking completely off, [like] somebody who may have had a few extra libations would be walking," Fong said. 

A raccoon is seen snoozing in broad daylight on a fence along a walking path in Stittsville. (Julie Fong)

Fermented fruit likely to blame

No, the raccoons haven't been visiting the local bar — they've more likely been overindulging on fermented fruit, according to Michael Runtz, a biology professor at Carleton University.

Runtz, who has neither seen nor examined any of the alleged inebriates, said there's an abundance of fruit falling from trees in the area this year, and it looks like the raccoons are having a hard time cutting themselves off.

The raccoons likely became intoxicated after chowing down on fermented fruit such as berries or crab apples. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

"It's possible that some of the fruit is fermenting under the heat, and that these guys are getting a bit tipsy by eating that fermenting fruit," he said. 

Runtz said it's typically birds that overdo it on fermented berries and crab apples, but he has heard of a similar case involving raccoons in West Virginia last year. 

He said in that case, the animals were so intoxicated they were seen falling out of trees.

His advice?

"Don't try to give them coffee and get them sobered up, just let them go their course," Runtz said. "If you're really concerned about the animal, call ... some of the animal control officers to come have a look at it."

Stittsville resident Julie Fong says she got a visit from an animal control officer on Sunday to remove an intoxicated raccoon from under her deck. Her neighbours Susan Mayo and Emily Rodgers say they've also seen raccoons in a similar state. 1:03

A spokesperson with Ottawa's bylaw department said so far this year, there have only been two reports of wild animals appearing intoxicated.

"When [bylaw] receives a call regarding a sick or injured wild animal, an officer is dispatched to transport the animal either to the Ottawa Humane Society or to a veterinarian depending on the time of day," Alison Sandor said in a written statement.

"A veterinarian will assess the animal and determine a course of treatment."

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