Sometimes Critters do the Darndest Things

Steve Gilliland
Special to the Globe

Everyone who has spent much time in the outdoors has stories of strange, fascinating or hilarious shenanigans by critters they have witnessed in the wild. This week I thought of a couple such incidents, one witnessed by my brother and another by a friend.

My brother Joe owns 200 acres in southeastern Ohio that is nothing but forest, and he could easily be off-the-grid if he wanted it to be. He has a nice cabin way off the road, and as all good cabins should, it has a covered porch running its entire length.

The driveway is ten feet or so below the porch, and at the bottom of a steep drive runs a creek which is another several feet below the main driveway.

At the bottom along the creek is a deer feeder built atop railroad ties to keep it safe from the resident wild pigs. As the crow flies, the deer feeder is probably seventy-five yards from the porch and is the gathering place for all manner of wildlife morning, noon and night. Most visitors are welcome at the feeder with the exception of raccoons, which are bullies and will drain the deer feeder if allowed.

One evening a few years back, Joe stepped out onto the porch after dark to investigate a skirmish at the feeder below, and found a raccoon slurping up the easy meal of corn spit out by the feeder.

He shot the coon and heard it splash backwards into the creek, then he went to bed. The next morning while enjoying his coffee on the porch, he noticed something rolling and splashing in the creek below. He walked down to the creek and there were two big snapping turtles, each attached with a death grip to opposite ends of the raccoon carcass.

They would fight and roll until one got the upper hand and was above the water. When the other turtle finally needed air, the fight was on again until that turtle was above water.

Joe watched them go back-and-forth like that for over 30 minutes, then decided to end the fray by making turtle soup.

Some friends of ours make crafts in a workshop attached to a big machinery sheds via a big door which they often keep open to provide a breeze while they work.

For some time one particular summer, a large toad had taken up residence in one corner of the workshop and was welcome as it basically ate bugs and stayed out-of-the-way. One day as they worked there, our friend’s wife kept hearing strange noises coming from that corner of the shop.

Upon investigation they found a medium sized snake with the resident toad buried “legs first” in its mouth. The problem was that one leg was buried in the snake’s mouth but the other leg was outside, making it impossible for the snake to ever swallow the toad any further.

The noises they heard came from the tug-of-war that was under way between the two. The toad would attempt to crawl away from the snake with its one operable leg, then the snake would try in vain to suck the toad deeper into its mouth.

Back and forth they went until my friend killed the snake and removed the hapless toad, which then limped away, dragging its “swallowed” leg.

Yes, sometimes critters do the darndest things, and if we are blessed enough to be at the right place at the right time we can see quite a show. At least critters have an excuse; they do those things to survive, where we humans usually do them out of stupidity!

Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.

Steve can be contacted by email at