After being reported eating a large number of fermented apples, a huge black bear was seen in a tree in Douglas County, Colorado. Throughout Tuesday, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office started receiving reports that a bear was scavenging in the area of Puma Run near McArthur Ranch Road in Highlands Ranch. Later on, deputies discovered the animal taking a break in a tree, Out There Colorado reports.
Atlas Obscura reports that bears can get intoxicated from rotting fruit, but it would take a huge amount. Public Information Officer Jason Blanchard weighed in on the issue. “There is no way to confirm or deny if the bear is “drunk” per se, Blanchard admitted. “[However] we did get reports of [it] eating a large amount of aged, fermented apples.”
The sheriff’s office is asking anyone in the area to keep their distance from the animal if they see it. A Wednesday update noted that the bear has since moved on from its position in the tree. However, it may still be in the area. “Please store trashcans inside and keep your distance. Bears may look cute but can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to you and your pets. DOW has been advised,” the sheriff’s advised.
The science behind fermented apples intoxicating bears
The argument proposed by those who believe black bears get drunk from eating fermented apples is as follows: Apples fall from the tree and start to rot, which then attracts bears. The animal eats the apple, allowing fermentation to occur in its stomach. From there, alcohol is released into the bloodstream of the bear, resulting in drunkenness.
The palm nectar drink is unique in that it’s a naturally occurring alcohol with an alcohol by volume percentage of around 50%. Alcohols are widespread; when various microorganisms, particularly yeasts, consume carbohydrates and generate alcohol, this happens. Additionally, the presence of oxygen activates other tiny animals to break down the alcohol into acid. This is why if you leave red wine out in the open for a few weeks, you’ll end up with red wine vinegar.
Darrell Smith is a wildlife biologist at Western Wildlife Outreach, a scientific outreach program. This is a free educational program for residents of Washington and the northwest. It teaches about bears of all species.
“One of the issues with fermented fruit is that it would take a lot to get a bear drunk. You know, people don’t get drunk from fermented apples either,” explained Smith. Black bears have hearty appetites and can munch on 20 pounds of food at a time, but that’s still a minute amount of alcohol in comparison. A fully grown black bear male weighs about 600 pounds, so it would take quite a bit to get them buzzed. “I’ve heard of that, but it’s very anecdotal, I think,” says Smith.