Weird Nature

Strange Stories from the Animal Kingdom

We're all used to seeing wild animals in their natural habitats. From the simple ground squirrel in your back yard to the largest grizzly Alaska, wild animals are all around us regardless of where you live. And in most cases, they act just about as we expect them too - well, almost.

This section of the PATC web site contains stories submitted by our visitors about those rare times when the animals acted a little unusual. In fact, let's say the animals acted a little more than unusual - they acted WEIRD! If you have a weird nature story you'd like to contribute, please send it to me via email. If it's weird enough, heck, I'll post it.

There are some strange things going on out there folks.......



Rock and Roll Woodpecker - One coworker reported a strange story about a pileated woodpecker that was attracted to his home. Each day, the woodpecker would land on the side of his house and start pecking on his rain gutter downspout. Since downspouts are long and hollow and a woodpecker's beak is pretty hard, the pecking made a deafening sound similar to a drum. After checking with the local animal control office, my friend discovered the woodpecker was using the downspout to amplify his mating call. There are no reports on the woodpeckers success rate, however there was some discussion about the possibility of a bent beak.

A story related to Andy Hiltz by a coworker


101 Cedar Lane - Meanwhile, another co-worker reported a different woodpecker story. He lives in a home with cedar shake siding. Last year, a woodpecker apparently started to mistake his home for a large dead tree and started pecking holes into the siding. The home owner has tried scaring the birds away to no effect. He also mentioned that he was thinking about spraying the side of his home with a toxic chemical, which I encouraged him not to do. Finally, I suggested that he call the Audubon Society for a recommendation. While the Audubon Society didn't have a solution for the pecking problem, they did inform the homeowner that the woodpecker is a protected species and that it's illegal to kill them. The homeowner has not figured out a solution yet, but is considering paint. I asked him "Why paint?". He said he had seen a T.V. commercial that showed a woodpecker unsuccessfully trying to peck through this exterior latex and is thinking of "putting their advertisement to the test".

A story related to Andy Hiltz by a co-worker


Moonlight Serenade - When I was in high school, and before my parents had the money to invest in air conditioning, I have vivid memories of this Mockingbird. Along about midnight, it would perch itself in an apple tree right outside my bedroom window and start singing. It sang all night long until sunrise. I never had any idea who or what it was singing to, or more importantly, WHY. While all the other birds were asleep, I was awake listening to the lone bird in the state of Virginia that didn't know the difference between night and day. I suppose the bird thought it was a Nightingale.

submitted by Andy Hiltz


Woods Spaghetti - On a past trip to Otter Creek Wilderness in West Virginia, a backpacking group got rained out of the backcountry. When they arrived at the car, it wouldn't start. Fortunately, some cavers happened along in their pickup truck and offered to give the battery a jump start. For some reason, the car still wouldn't start. On closer inspection, it was discovered that some woods critters had chewed through the spark plug wires. Personally, I prefer mine with parmesan cheese.

submitted by Betty Eltezam


Woods Pretzels - Hikers in Pennsylvania reported similar car problems at selected trail heads. Apparently, porcupines were chewing through radiator hoses for the salt. Jack Daniels would have been a better antifreeze choice, but perhaps the local bars were closed at the time.

reported by the Appalachian Trail Conference


Hobo Mouse - On a backpacking trip to hike a section of the AT in Maine, my car was left at the end of the section along with food for dayhikes in the White Mountains on the next few days. At the end of the section hike, I was displeased to see that mice had gotten into my food, but I could get some more so it was not a real problem. It was necessary to caravan for several hours as dark approached to get to our lodging in NH. As I followed the lead car, a mouse appeared on the dashboard, right in front of me. And it stayed there for the rest of the trip! When we reached our destination, I opened the car door and swept the mouse out with my hand. I don't believe that it found the rest of its family.

submitted by William Collins


Attack Grouse - Last week I accompanied a Sierra Club hut-to-hut trip in the White Mountains. On the last day, while hiking the AT from Madison Hut to Pinkham Notch, I noticed a grouse running away for cover. Almost immediately following, another grouse came flying in all haste straight for me. In fact, straight for my head. I thought, "surely it will veer off. It's playing chicken". Not so! At the last moment, I was the one to be chicken as I ducked, narrowly missing bird in face. But the grouse wasn't finished at that. It continued to follow the hiker immediately behind me, running on the ground, hissing all the while. The hiker got tired of the rude treatment and removed his hat and gave the bird a swipe. That discouraged it a bit. When we had a chance, we asked other hikers behind if they had any "bird" experience, knowing that we had primed the bird for action. One other group was also followed by the irate "attack grouse".

submitted by William Collins


Cracker Loving Jay - One summer we were camping in the mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz, California. After lunch we had S'Mores (grahm crackers, roasted marshmellows and chocolate) and had carelessly left the crackers on the table as we took a short walk.

When we came back there was a jay (my bird watching is a little weak; it was blue, so I thought it was a blue jay, but was later told that blue jays don't live in the Santa Cruz mountains) on the table. It would pull a graham cracker out of the package with its' beak, break the cracker in half, stack the two halves and fly away with the crackers in its' beak.

We watched as this bird repeated this at least three times. I guess that the crackers were so long that it interfered with the jay's ability to fly, but it is amazing that it would have learned to break the cracker (right on the perforation, I might add) and that this would allow the jay to fly and carry the cracker back to the nest.

Submitted by Michael Carpenter


Preoccupied Chipmunks - Back in the early 1970's I was hiking Mt. Katadin, Maine at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. It was a hot July day and there was little activity on the trail. Suddenly in the bushes along the trail I heard the chips and chatter of several chipmunks. The area was loaded with the little critters back then. The chattering got louder and louder until two chipmunks burst onto the trail to my left. One ran right by my boot and into the bushes on the other side of the trail. The second one ran right into the side of my boot and bounced backward. For a second it looked stunned and then the chipmunk started a tirade of chattering. It was over after several seconds afterwhich the chipmunk skittered off into the bushes. But for several seconds, that I will remember the rest of my life, I felt like that little chipmunk was scolding me for being where I should not be - his runway.

Submitted by Bruce Johnson


Dinner Guest - This story was related to me by my hiking buddy, Jeff. The first time Jeff decided he wanted to do an overnight camp he and his buddy didn't have tents. So they wandered out with their sleeping bags and backpacks.

They found a great place to camp and got a fire started. They placed some potatoes wrapped in foil on the fire as part of dinner. About the time those potatoes were done, a skunk came out of the trees and headed straight for them.

They were scared but decided the best thing to do was to stay as still as possible. The skunk walked straight up to my friend Jeff, put his paws and his face on Jeff's hiking boot. Jeff whispered in a frightened voice to his friend, "What do I do now?" to which his friend said "Give him some potato!" So Jeff gave him some potato and the skunk hung out with them until he got his fill. They got so close to him they named him Nelson.

By the way, Nelson was so taken with them he showed up for breakfast the next morning.

Submitted by Amy McMasters