Reports coming out of Marin over the last few weeks detailed a series of coyote-car interactions so odd that the possibility the coyotes (or coyote) were high on magic mushrooms was considered. However, as we originally noted, the likeliest explanation was that some Marin goofball had been feeding the wild animals out of his or her car. Well, after some further discussion with a local expert, it really does appear that humans, not psychedelic mushrooms, are likely to blame for the coyotes' bizarre behavior.
Lisa Bloch, the Director of Marketing & Communications for the Marin Humane Society, originally stated that it is "possible that someone was feeding him and thinking that it's cool, and magical and mystical to have a coyote eating out of his hand.” Bloch reiterated that suspicion to SFist.
"The most probable explanation is that someone has fed this coyote and now it feels emboldened," Bloch tells us. "Believe it or not, we had a similar situation recently involving an aggressive squirrel that was attacking people in Novato."
Bloch notes that she first started hearing reports about a coyote attacking cars on Highway 1 near Stinson beach on December 29, but that people had apparently been chatting about it on Nextdoor prior to that time.
This isn't the first time someone in the area has tried to feed a coyote, says Bloch.
"A couple of years ago, we received reports of a woman regularly feeding a coyote in the Marin Headlands McDonalds (yes, McDonald’s) and showing people how she could get him to come to her."
"Feeding wild animals is one of the worst things you can do for them, for your pets, and for people," Bloch explains. "They lose their natural, healthy fear of humans and as a result, they end up getting hit by cars, getting in fights with domestic dogs, and sometimes, killing domestic cats."
"The other big problem is that it completely messes with the ecosystem," she notes. "A coyote that is full on McDonald’s is going to hunt less mice and so on."
But what about those mushrooms — amanita muscaria — she warned pet owners about? Well, it turns out coyotes likely know not to eat them — unlike your precious Fido.
"This year, with El Niño in full effect, the mushrooms are all over the place. The Bay Area has several poisonous kinds of them and unlike coyotes who are smart enough — and wild enough — to stay away from poisonous things, domesticated dogs, especially certain breeds, are known to try to eat them."
Bloch tells us that if you happen to encounter coyotes behaving in the bizarre manner described by Marin motorists, the animals likely expect a snack. Don't give them one, she urges. Instead, "you should try to 'haze' them."
"No, not like in a fraternity," Block clarifies. "Hazing in this sense means scaring them off by yelling, waving your arms or throwing things (not at it but near it). Again, wild animals should retain their natural fear of humans. It’s what keeps us and them safe."
So, don't feed the coyotes — magic mushrooms or McDonald's. Got that, everyone?