From Chipmunks to Sperm Whales: Animals That Steal
From Chipmunks to Sperm Whales: Animals That Steal

Thieves, burglars and robbers. We aren’t the only ones who sometimes steal from our neighbours. In the animal world, there are plenty of examples of critters — large and small — that plan their own heists.


In the Canadian Rockies, winter can be particularly harsh. And for pikas, doubly so. These little relatives of rabbits spend their short summers in a frenzy of activity, running back and forth between their rock pile and the meadows, gathering grasses and flowers. Because they don’t hibernate, pikas must stockpile enough food to last them through the long, snowy winter.

Most pikas are very hard working, making up to 200 trips every day to fill their larder. However, when passing the hay piles of their neighbours, some can’t fight the urge to steal from the unattended store.

Sperm whales

The sperm whale possesses the biggest brain on the planet. It uses its intellect to hunt for deep-sea fish and squid, while also living in complex social groups.

MORE: Watch more about sperm whale intelligence.

All that brainpower helps them to communicate, coordinate their hunting  ... and even steal.

Alaskan fishermen are all too familiar with these marine kleptomaniacs. Fishing for deep-sea black cod in the cold Alaskan waters can be a lucrative endeavour, as black cod fetches high prices at market. The cod are caught by dropping long lines down into the dark depths where the fish are hiding. Once the fish appear, the line is hauled up towards the boat.

But thieves are lying in wait.

For the neighbourhood sperm whales, the sound of the hauling lines is like the ring of a dinner bell. Before the fish can reach the surface, the whales dive, reaching the fish on the line before the fishers have the chance to get them to the surface. Why put in all the work to catch your dinner when it’s offered up as a free buffet?

Arctic Fox

When it comes to life in Canada’s high North, even the spring can be a tough time. Having withstood the long and dark winter, arctic foxes welcome the return of the sun’s warmth. With it, comes a desperately needed supply of food.

The warmer weeks bring millions of snow geese to the Arctic, where they come to breed and spend the summer months raising their chicks. Pairs will fiercely defend their nests from neighbouring geese - and the foxes. However, the promise of a good meal is too much for a fox to pass up. If they want to feed themselves and their newly born pups, they must resort to looting. 

Sea Gulls

Gulls are infamous for their aggressive and thieving ways. Just take a look at this bold and sneaky gull stealing from a shop! Burglary is well-established practice in the gull world, always picking on the little guy or taking what they’re cheeky enough to grab. 

On the coast of Newfoundland, the puffin breeding season is a time of plenty for them. With tireless puffins flying far out to sea for their fish, they put a lot of hard work into gathering food to feed their chicks. Gulls, on the other hand, sit at home and wait for the puffins to return, hoping to bully them into getting a free meal.


Stocking up for winter is always busy work. Like the persistent pikas of the Rockies, chipmunks spend the time leading up to winter caching nuts. Their meal of choice — acorns.  In the eastern forests of Quebec, chipmunks live in close to each other.  It’s always nice to have an extra pair of eyes on the lookout for danger.

And it helps to keep your enemies close — to keep an eye on them. Collecting nuts can be tough work, and it is often easier to steal from your neighbour.


The wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family and one of the fiercest predators of Canada’s wilderness. They will eat anything they can find, from snacking on plants and berries to digging up hibernating mammals or even hunting down larger prey like moose or caribou.

However, winter brings times of hardship, and a wolverine must use every trick it can to secure a meal — and it’s not above robbery. Using its super senses to sniff out carcasses killed by wolves or bears, the wolverine steals what it can to fill its belly.



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