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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Reindeer giddy over mushrooms

It’s early autumn in Norway already, and the forests are full of mushrooms this year, some of them hallucinogenic. They’ve been discovered by reindeer out grazing, and sometimes getting higher than a kite.

Reindeer can often be seen on the road in the northern county of Finnmark, like here north of Alta. PHOTO:
Reindeer can often be seen along the road at this time of year in the northern county of Finnmark, like here north of Alta. PHOTO:

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported this week how motorists in Sør-Trøndelag have seen some very unusual behaviour among reindeer who appear absolutely giddy. Some have seemed entirely unafraid of both people and vehicles, and all but danced in the middle of the road.

“The reindeer have been behaving differently than otherwise in the year,” Per Magne Moan, who drives daily through the valley of Rugldalen, where reindeer roam. “Early in the spring they normally roam together in a flock. Now there are more reindeer out on their own, often with calves springing up behind them, and they don’t mind us at all. It’s absolutely different behaviour than before.”

Unni Fjellheim, who owns a herd of reindeer in the Riast/Hylling grazing area, thinks the reindeer “pure and simple get high on the mushrooms they’re eating.” She said the reindeer eat mushroom to build fat and protein reserves for the winter.

Motorists have reported seeing reindeer literally frolicking along the road, both along county highways 30 and 705 through Rugldalen. Their recklessness can be dangerous though, and cause collisions.

Nicholas Tyler, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Tromsø, said the reindeer can also simply become overjoyed when they have all but unlimited access to mushrooms, one of their favorite food items. “I think they’re just high on their own joy,” Tyler told NRK. This year has also produced a bounty of both mushrooms and berries following a damp summer.

Tyler said some reindeer may literally be under the influence, though. “Animals can get high or drunk,” Tyler said. “There are many examples of it, including when animals eat fermented fruit that has fallen off trees and they get drunk on the alcohol content in the fruit. Animals can also seek out the seeds from plants that are a halucinogenic. There’s no doubt they can seek out things in nature that change their humour, just like people.” Berglund



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