By Animal Planet
Believe it or not, stealing is common among animals. But these creatures take thieving to a whole new level.
Thievery is common among animals, but the scorpionfly takes theft to a whole new level. To mate with a female, the male scorpionfly must typically present her with the gift of food. Many forgo the annoyance of having to hunt down a food item by simply stealing a dead insect from a spider’s web. Others may swipe the gift of another would-be suitor and present it to the female as his own. But perhaps the cleverest and most despicable males actually pretend to be females in order to abscond with the gift of the males attempting to mate with them. Then, the false-female makes his escape and mates with an actual female as she enjoys his gift of stolen food.
Known as the “pirates of the seashore,” gulls are naturally aggressive and competitive birds. They steal food from each other, other bird species or even sea otters if given the opportunity. Because gulls cannot dive for fish, they must steal from those species that can as they bring their prey up to the surface. One of the gull’s primary targets is the brown pelican, a shorebird famous for catching fish in its large throat pouch. Once the pelican snags a catch, it rises to the surface to drain water out of its bill and arrange the fish for swallowing. That’s when the gull swoops in and grabs the fish straight out of the pelican’s bill before it can be swallowed.
Some people consider squirrels to be cute and harmless, but to gardeners, they are public enemy No. 1. Squirrels are very intelligent, bold and persistent animals. When you combine these qualities with a hungry belly and a tendency to live alongside humans, there can be a good bit of conflict between squirrels and homeowners over flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. Squirrels may also barge into homes and shops and make off with nuts, seeds or whatever snacks might be within reach. They are particularly prone to theft during early spring, when their food caches are depleted but no new sources of food are yet available.
Related: Top 10 Smartest Animals
The octopus is among the most prized of aquarium species, but this soft-bodied beast is nobody’s pet. In fact, octopi are among the ocean’s top predators. Known for their ability to escape a tank and roam free in the halls of the world’s aquariums, octopi are not merely taking a stroll. Often they leave their watery dens in search of mischief or a midnight snack. They are able to steal crabs, fish and other treats during their late-night jaunts, in part because of their extremely agile bodies. They are also highly intelligent; the octopus brain is one of the largest and best-developed of any sea creature.
5. Arctic Fox
To survive in the Arctic, an animal needs more than just the right coat of fur. It must be resourceful enough to find food in extreme conditions, which often means resorting to theft. The Arctic fox is a stealthy animal whose coat is pure white or blue in winter and gray-brown in summer, allowing it to blend into the environment at all times of year. This camouflage allows the animal to troll around searching for birds that have made their summer home on the rocky tundra. Once it finds a flock, the fox sneaks up and swipes eggs from its unsuspecting feathered foe.
Like its close relatives the magpies, jays are bold and indiscriminate thieves. They have been known to steal from other species or from their own. In the case of the Western scrub jay, these birds may have even learned a thing or two from these greedy exploits, according to some recent laboratory experiments. Some Western scrub jays have a habit of pilfering the food caches of other birds, while others do not. If a thieving jay is observed while burying its cache of food, it will later go back and move it. However, non-thieving jays are not so cunning, which leads scientists to wonder whether certain jays are imaginative enough to “get into the minds” of their would-be competitors.
In one of the most bold and brazen examples of theft in the animal kingdom, hyenas are capable of driving a lion away from its kill. It travels in groups of up to 80 individuals and when it comes upon a larger carnivore it swoops in to steal the meat with the help of its clan. Hyenas often hunt collectively, which means stealing is no problem. Hyena clans may consist of up to 80 individuals. But theft isn’t the only crime committed by this animal. Spotted hyena females typically give to twins. One cub becomes dominant and controls access to the mother, sometimes killing its weaker sibling in order to improve its own chance of survival.
2. Rhesus Macaque
Rhesus macaques, also called rhesus monkeys, are well-adapted to coexisting with humans and thrive in urban areas. This puts them into close contact with people, so when the going gets tough, the tough start swiping stuff. It’s not a good idea to leave a purse or bag of groceries unattended in the presence of these animals. In some areas, a substantial portion of the rhesus monkey’s daily sustenance comes from thievery, along with handouts, crop raiding and scavenging through trash. In India, rhesus macaques are worshiped by local people who feed them in temples throughout the region.
1. Sperm Whale
It’s difficult to be sneaky when you weigh upwards of 40 tons and have a head the size of an SUV, but the sperm whale manages to get away with some of the most daring thefts in the animal kingdom. In the heavily fished waters off the coast of Alaska, there have been numerous accounts of sperm whales swiping fish from commercial fishing lines. According to fishermen, these behemoths simply loll about in the water near the boats as if they do not have a care in the world. As soon as the moment is right, they swim up to the lines and boldly make a meal of the fishermen’s catch. Some have actually made this a regular habit, taking note of the schedules and routes of the ships. For boldness, ingenuity and the sheer size of the crime, the sperm whale takes the top spot in our countdown of animal thieves.