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 harsh so it's best to prepare well in advance. Tiny pikas 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 need to 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. But, when passing by the hay piles of their neighbours, some can’t fight the urge to steal from the unattended store.

Sperm whales

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

MORE: 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. Geese pairs fiercely defend their nests from neighbouring geese — and the foxes. The promise of a good meal is too much for a fox to pass up. To feed themselves and their newly born pups, they often 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! Gulls are always picking on the little guy or taking what they’re cheeky enough to grab. 

On the coast of Newfoundland, puffin breeding season is a time of great opportunity. Tireless puffins fly far out to sea for their fish putting in a lot of hard work to gather 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 a free meal.


Stocking up for winter is always busy work. Like the pikas, chipmunks spend all fall caching 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.

It helps to keep your enemies close — to keep an eye on them. Collecting nuts is 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'll eat anything they can find; they snack on plants and berries,  dig up hibernating mammals or hunt down larger prey like moose or caribou.

Winter brings times of hardship, and a wolverine must use every trick it can to secure a meal. Using its super senses to sniff out carcasses killed by wolves or bears, the wolverine steals what it can to fill its belly.