Battling baboons, dead raccoon make list of 2015's top animal stories

Animals have a penchant to make news. Their stories can be cute or disturbing, but always interesting. Here are this year's Canadian animal newsmakers:

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Baboon brawl -- A brutal battle began late last year among the baboons at the Toronto Zoo that led to severe injuries and the temporary closure of the exhibit. The violence continued for months as two female baboons fought for the throne left vacant by the death of the dominant female, Betty. Molly is Betty's oldest daughter and baboon society dictates the throne was hers. But she was young at six years old, and not fully mature. So Putsie, who at 18 years old is the enclosure's oldest female, saw an opportunity. Kalamata, the lowest of the low in baboon hierarchy, became the brunt of most attacks. Now Molly and Putsie sit on the throne in an uncomfortable truce, with the rightful heir biding her time until the older one dies -- a primate catfight to watch in 2016.


Lynx -- Beth-Ann Colebourne, the "crazy cat lady whisperer," rose to Internet fame after she uploaded a video to YouTube that showed her kitty-calling a lynx in March. She noticed the wild cat outside her nail salon in Terrace Bay, Ont., and followed it as it prowled around the strip mall. Highlights of her chat with the cat include: "What's up buddy, what are you doing?" "Hey, lynx!" and "Kitty, kitty, kitty." The animal rebuked her approaches and slinked away toward the bush. "I felt like a kid in a candy shop, you know when you see a really cool animal at the zoo or something," she told The Canadian Press. "So I just walked up to him and talked to him."

Lynx video goes viral

Raccoon on a crane -- A death-defying raccoon climbed 58 storeys up a crane ladder in downtown Toronto in April. Once perched high above the city, the crane operator, Rob MacFarlane, snapped the image that went viral online. He estimates the animal climbed 213 metres to its destination overnight. The raccoon climbed back down after MacFarlane yelled at it.

Raccoon climbs Toronto crane

Toronto Peacock -- A peacock flew the coop from a downtown Toronto zoo in May, escaping capture for days before finally returning home after a week on the lam. The bird became a sensation locally and online as animal services officers tried for a full day to snare it in a net, but failed repeatedly. Iain McCauley was walking to work near High Park when he saw a big blue bird sprinting down the street. He said he looked at his neighbour, back to the bird and then back to his neighbour. "Yeah, it's a peacock," his neighbour said.

Toronto peacock

Vancouver's Downtown Deer -- A deer wormed its way into the hearts of Vancouverites during the summer as it became friendly with people and cruised the streets looking for food and affection. The deer appeared to live in Stanley Park, which has no deer population despite its size. The Downtown Deer was spotted hanging out with people fishing, eating out of human hands and being petted. In September the Downtown Deer died after being hit by two cars. The city mourned.

Downtown deer

Dead Raccoon -- Another dead Canadian animal caught the country's attention in 2015, this one a member of Toronto's massive raccoon brigade. The body of the fallen masked critter, cause of death unknown, lay on a downtown sidewalk in July for almost 12 hours, prompting three co-workers to set up a makeshift shrine with a card placed beside the belly-up beast that read: "Hang in there." Another co-worker laid a rose beside Conrad, as he was soon dubbed. Then the gang propped a framed photo of a smiling raccoon next to the corpse, while another tweeted a picture with the hashtag, #DeadRaccoonTO. The story soon exploded online here and abroad as it took animal services hours to arrive to dispose of the so-called trash panda, simply tossing him into the back of a truck. The memorial still endured, however -- someone placed pylons around a chalk outline of the animal's body with yellow police tape surrounding the scene, which remained for days. The episode also prompted a dead raccoon butter sculpture at the Canadian National Exhibition.

Dead raccoon in Toronto

Dead Bear -- The public reacted with outrage in the summer after police shot and killed a black bear found in a backyard in Newmarket, Ont. York Regional police said they had no choice when the black bear came down from a tree, so they fired away -- all of it was captured by a circling news chopper. The Ministry of Natural Resources was en route with a tranquilizer and was within minutes of arrival when the bear was killed. Debate spilled over into the Ontario legislature, with opposition parties saying police shouldn't have to deal with wildlife and criticizing the ministry for not responding faster after receiving calls about a bear in the area the day before.

A black bear sits in a tree in Newmarket

Panda Births -- A panda gave birth to two cubs in mid-October at the Toronto Zoo. The zoo set up a neonatal unit borrowed from a hospital to help the cubs survive, swapping them between the mother's teat and the incubator every hour in the early days to help with their survival. By mid-December, the pair began to look like little pandas rather than pink worms. The two may or may not be twins because the zoo used sperm from three donors -- two from frozen samples sent from the panda's owners in China and one fresh sample from the male panda in Toronto, Da Mao.

Two one-day-old giant pandas

Snoutless Beagle -- A Nicaraguan dog had snout-saving surgery in Ottawa six weeks after an American airline initially refused to fly the dog because of its injury. Tyson, a beagle mix from a farm in the jungles in Nicaragua, suffered a severe gash after a machete accident left a gaping slash in his snout. Graham Thatcher, a veterinarian in Ottawa, learned about the injury through Instagram and made arrangements to fly the dog to Canada to fix his snout. But United Airlines balked at transporting the wounded hound. After the story went public, the airline changed its mind and helped fly the dog to Ottawa. In early December, Thatcher and his co-workers at the Alta Vista Animal Hospital screwed metal plates into the dog's face during a six-hour surgery. He said the Nicaraguan family has shown little interest in Tyson's health and, if that doesn't change, Thatcher will adopt the dog himself.

Injured dog flown to Canada

Mistaken Coyote -- A police officer repeatedly ran over a dog with his cruiser in Collingwood, Ont., in the fall after receiving a call about a coyote in the area. The disturbing scene was captured on video and shows the officer backing his car down the street to take a longer run at the dog. The dog still wasn't dead, so the officer got out of his cruiser and shot and killed it. Police initially said it dispatched a "possibly rabid" coyote before the video was posted on Facebook. They later admitted to mistaking the dog for a wild animal. It turns out the dog, Merrick, was 21 years old and had escaped a nearby backyard and was slowly wandering the area -- as old dogs do.

CTV National News: Dog owner outraged


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