West Marin residents have lately been reporting a strange sight on Highway 1 near the Slide Ranch turnoff. It’s all the talk at Beth’s Community Kitchen in Bolinas and elsewhere: A coyote has taken to staring down automobile drivers as they drive through this twisting, turning section of highway, before attacking the car and then skulking off back into the wilderness. The coyote runs up to the cars, usually at night, forcing drivers to stop as the beast stares and sniffs around the vehicle.
The coyote “attacks” have happened a bunch of times, to enough people, to warrant calls to figure out what’s going on with the animal. Or, animals, as the latest grist out of Bolinas has it that there are now two coyotes acting a little weird, or a lot weird: Drive-by coyote stare-downs have now become part of the normative experience for a Bolinas-based individual who makes numerous nighttime airport runs every week. We are not identifying this individual, who fears retribution at the vengeful paws of these bushy-tailed beasts. He would only say, “It’s a terrifying, yet beautiful thing to behold.”
There are three possible scenarios to explain the behavior, ranging from least probable, kind of fun to consider and most probable. The least probable problem with the coyote, or coyotes, is rabies. This sort of “Old Yeller” type of aggression usually comes at the end-stage of the disease, the “terror stage” or “zombie stage” of rabies, at which point the animal is going to die, Bloch says.
These coyote attacks have been going on for at least three weeks. If it were rabies, Bloch says, the coyote would likely be dead by now. “If this is going on longer than a week or so, then it’s likely not rabies. And we don’t suspect rabies, just because it is pretty rare.”
Whew, it’s not rabies. It is possible, but not probable, that the coyote has eaten something—perhaps a fly agaric mushroom (amanita muscaria) which has hallucinogenic properties—and has subsequently been tripping its tail off. The cars would therefore be some sort of coyote vision, a dark vision of human interlopers, who must be stopped before the rents get any higher in West Marin. That would be kind of cool.
Bloch could not completely rule out the possibility that coyotes are having psychedelic experiences out on the feral fringes of civilization, and in fact she has been counseling dog owners of late on the dangers of poisonous mushrooms in our midst