7 Times Animals Bit Off More Than They Could Chew in 2017

For all its beauty, nature sometimes takes on more than it can handle.

By Elaina Zachos
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:41 BST

Usually, animals know their limits. But sometimes, they stretch them—sometimes leading to spectacular fails.

We've compiled a list of times from 2017 when animals bit off more than they could chew, for better or for worse.

Bat vs. Banana

Miss Alicia is not making dieting a part of her New Year's Resolution. In this video, the rescued flying fox ravenously devours a banana more than half her size. With bulging eyes and stuffed cheeks, she chows down on the fruit for a couple minutes, gulping down chunks and contentedly chewing it.

A species of tree-dwelling fruit bat, flying foxes are just as good at flying through the air as they are at climbing trees. Their keen senses of sight and smell help them home in on their favorite foods, and the nomadic flyers tend to live in swamps, mangroves, and bamboo stands in Australia.

Despite how adorable munching Miss Alicia is, little flying foxes are so common in Australia that some farmers see them as pests.

Lion vs. Car Tire

In South Africa's Kruger National Park, wildlife does whatever it wants. And that includes stopping a whole caravan of cars to check it out.

Here, a pride of lions approaches some stopped vehicles and one particularly curious carnivore goes in for the kill … on one of the car's tires. The lion investigates the vehicle and tests a front tire, popping it. Startled by the sudden burst, the cat scampers away.

A quick tire change later, the lions and cars safely divert paths.

Baby Rhino vs. Car (Or Not)

Grown rhinoceros lead aggressive, solitary lives. They can weigh more than a ton full-grown, but they weigh closer to 100 pounds when they're born.

In this video, a baby rhino gets a little too aggressive and thinks it's a lot bigger than it actually is. The calf charges up to a car on a South African safari and slows down, but continues to burst forward as the tourists filming from the vehicle reverse. The rhino retreats, only to pound back and forth over the next few minutes.

Rhinos, particularly males, are territorial mammals, and it's not unheard of for them to charge at trains passing through their turf.

There are two types of rhinoceros: white rhinos and black rhinos. (Ironically, both are grey in color.) They once roamed through most of sub-Saharan Africa, but their numbers have decreased because of poaching for their keratin horns.

Python vs. Lizard

When humans get scared, we fight or run. When snakes are nervous, they throw up.

A video of a python regurgitating a monitor lizard made rounds in November, just in time for Thanksgiving. In the clip, the tail end of the lizard protrudes from a python's expanded jaws after the snake has been freed from under a local's patio. As the snake moves backward, it slowly throws up the fully intact, thoroughly dead reptile.

The snake got spooked when a wildlife control team attempted to relocate it to a reserve, where it would later be released into the forest. Snakes have to be agile to slither away or attack threats, which can't be done when they're lugging around the weight of a food baby in their stomachs.

As some of the largest snakes on Earth, carnivorous Burmese pythons can weigh up to 200 pounds and grow up to 23 feet. They use their fangs to grasp prey and their thick bodies to constrict it. Once they've made a kill, they'll swallow it whole and use digestive enzymes to break it down. Sometimes, digesting large prey can take months. (Check out seven python meals that got ugly.)

Fish vs. Fish

When people say they've "gone fishing," they don't usually find a lake battle, frozen-in-time.

On a frozen lake in northern Indiana, two brothers caught a strange sight while out ice fishing: the tail end of a bass protruding from the surface, its front half being devoured by a pike fish below the ice. So they took a photo and posted it on Facebook, where it went viral in a cacophony of thousands of likes, comments, and shares.

But with skeptical commenters questioning if the photo was real, the brothers took a chainsaw to the fish scene to cut it out of the ice. They recorded their efforts as evidence.

When they slid the chunk of ice out of the lake, they found what they had originally thought: on one end, a bass poked through the ice, and on the other end, a pike.

The brothers hypothesize that a fisherman caught the bass but, deciding the 14-inch fish was too small, threw it back into the lake. Then, the bass died anyway and floated to the surface, where the pike spotted it and decided to eat it. But the pike probably choked on the bass and died. Eventually, a thicker layer of ice moved in to preserve the bodies.

(Curious for more weird fish action? See an underground mammal found inside a fish.)

Frog vs. Snake

The image of the carnivorous frog swalloing the snake humorously titled, One Last Scream into The Abyss.
Photograph by Julie-Anne O'Neill

When Julie-Anne O'Neill captured this snake-frog action in 2011, she didn't know it was going to go viral.

Walking around North Queensland, Australia, one night before a storm, she heard a loud screeching. On the ground in front of her, she spotted a large Australian green tree frog. From inside its gaping mouth, she glimpsed the head of a small brown snake. Wriggling backwards into the frog's throat, the serpent was frantically trying to slither free.

Female Australian green tree frogs can grow about four inches long, and males usually grow to three inches . They normally dine on insects, but sometimes go for larger, more ambitious prey like mice, other frogs, and, apparently, snakes.

O'Neill says punctures dotted the frog's tongue, and she assumed this meal would be its last. But when she saw it the next morning, the amphibian was still alive.

Just a Puffin Being a Boss

The Atlantic puffin can hold a large number of small fish in its spacious beak.
Photograph by Sunil Gopalan, National Geographic Your Shot

Sometimes, animals do know their limits.

Our 2017 Nature Photographer of the Year award went to Sunil Gopalan, a photographer/computer engineer who mainly photographs birds. He caught this photo of a puffin with a mouthful of tiny silvery fish spilling out of its brightly colored bill in northern Scotland's remote Fair Isle.

Gopalan traveled from the Midwest to Glasgow to Sumburgh, and then boarded a small aircraft to get to Fair Isle. On one rainy day when he was thinking about eating breakfast, he spotted this sea parrot munching on a morning meal of its own. He captured as many photographs of the rain-drenched bird as he could, and submitted his best shot online.

As excellent swimmers, puffins spend most of their lives at sea. They have rudderlike webbed feet and can dive in waters up to 200 feet deep, using their wings to swim before coming up 20 or 30 seconds later. Puffin parents make at least eight food runs each day, and they can come back bearing 20 or more fish in their beaks.


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved