While walking along the northern shore of Lake Ontario, I noticed the following strange scene:

enter image description here

Here is a closer angle:

zoomed in photo

What are these animals, and what is the likeliest cause of this?

  • $\begingroup$ Oof! :'-( Looks more like a raccoon to me. Seeing its head might help... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 1:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A picture under the fish's head would help as they could be entangled somehow - fishing line? $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ This question could focus more on species ID rather than CSI to avoid further close votes. Really interesting albeit disturbing scene though and thanks for asking :) $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


That's likely a raccoon and a dead fish (salmon, perhaps).

For the animal on the left: notice the ringed tail, foot anatomy, and lighter foot color, and variable (light/dark) fur color:

enter image description here

University of Arizona

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Furbearer Conservation

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

Note: Since you mentioned opossums, I include the above to show the vast difference in foot anatomy between a raccoon and and opossum. An opossum's foot is also not white like that.

The fish, in my opinion, is too degraded to get an accurate ID. However, based on size, upper jaw size, and coloration (dark dorsal + tail fin with lighter belly), I think it's quite possible this is a salmon, of which 3 species can be found in Lake Ontario.

enter image description here

Fishing Booker

Possible species include Atlantic, Chinook, and Coho. See here for descriptions and pictures of each along with many other Lake Ontario fish species. I invite you to stare at your photo longer to convince yourself to which specific species it is.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Oh yeah, and there's just no telling what happened. Though, notice the raccoon's foot is buried. This suggests these animals possibly have either been here for a while and/or were carried here and deposited from wave action. The former seems unlikely given the easy meal both would have provided to some other predator. It may very well be the salmon was caught on fishing line (perhaps snapped by an angler), which caught it up near shore where a raccoon got entangled Then they got swept up, drowned, and then their tied-up carcasses deposited on the beach and covered in moving sand. Who knows... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ And in a few 100,000 years they'll dig up the fossils and note the epic battle between the 2 species a la fighting dinosaurs, concluding that racoons were partially aquatic and descended into the depths to hunt their prey. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ I was wondering why would a decapitated raccoon end up on beach. Your theory makes sense @theforestecologist $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 6:39

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