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10 animal stories that roared into the headlines in 2018

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Whether they have four legs, two wings or a tail, animals have a way of nosing their way into the news.

In fact, many animal stories were among Global BC’s most read in 2018, while others dominated talk around water coolers and dinner tables.

Here’s a look at some of the animal stories that roared into the headlines this year.

The Chinatown otter

WATCH: Silver lining to Sun Yat-Sen Garden otter vs. koi battle






For nearly two weeks in November, Metro Vancouver was captivated by #Otterwatch2018.

The episode began when a hungry — and illusive — river otter slipped into Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and took up residence in the park’s pond.

From there, it began gobbling its way through the gardens’ prized — and valuable — koi fish.


READ MORE:
50-year-old koi ‘Madonna’ killed by otter in Vancouver’s Chinese garden

The Vancouver Park Board brought in an expert to try and catch the critter, but the wily animal evaded capture — munching all but three of the gardens’ 14 koi, including a 50-year-old fish named Madonna, before slipping away on its own.

The episode resonated with the city, dividing the public into #TeamOtter and #TeamKoi on social media, spawning Chinatown Otter merch and spurring a parody Twitter account.

The mandarin duck

WATCH: B.C. has its own spectacular visiting Mandarin duck






Speaking of celebrity animals, few in B.C. got as much attention this year as the Mandarin duck.

The bright, exquisitely plumed birds are native to East Asia and not known to exist in the wild in North America so it’s something of a mystery how this one ended up in Burnaby Lake and Lost Lagoon.


READ MORE:
‘I pinched myself’: B.C. birders living the dream, as rare Mandarin duck makes appearance

However it got there, the duck had B.C. birders a-twitter in November, with crowds flocking to the lake to try and snap a photo of the creature.

The Burnaby Lake Park Association says the bird has actually been there since last May, and others have suggested it’s been around for a full 18 months.

The duck’s celebrity came on the heels of another Mandarin duck, this one in New York’s Central Park, going viral.

The (literal) cat burglar

WATCH: Meet the Delta cat that is living a life of crime






When the news writes about cat burglars, it’s very rare that the burglar in question is a real cat.

Not so in the case of Bella, a North Delta cat that’s dedicated herself to a life of crime.


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Meet the Delta cat burglar that’s dedicated to a life of laundry crime

The purr-loining puss has developed a reputation for sneaking out of owner Shawn Bell’s apartment every night, prowling the neighbourhood and returning with laundry for loot.

That’s left Bell with bags and bags of the stolen stuff — but no one to return it to. He said in September that no one has come looking for their laundry yet.

The Kits Beach shark

WATCH: Was that a small shark spotted off of Vancouver’s Kits Beach?






It wasn’t quite Jaws, but back in June, Vancouver did have a little shark moment. As in, a visit from a little shark.

Experts believe the creature, whose fin was photographed cresting the waves close to shore at Kits Beach, was a Pacific spiny dogfish.

The species of small shark is not uncommon in the deeper waters of the Georgia Strait.


READ MORE:
Is that a shark swimming up to Vancouver’s Kits Beach? Possibly yes, and it could be in trouble

What’s unusual is for one of those creatures to come in so close to shore.

The Vancouver Aquarium suggested the animal may have been hunting or in distress.

B.C.’s giant steer

WATCH: Armstrong, B.C., home to massive steer






For a week in November, the internet went steer-crazy. Giant cows from around the globe were suddenly making headlines, after the story of Knickers the Australian cow, who was too big to be butchered, went viral.

And B.C. was no exception, adding Buddy the steer to the pantheon of giant bovines.

The massive animal is six-foot-five and weighs about 2,400 pounds.

His owner, Jim Saiko, bought Buddy six years ago as a calf with the intention of butchering him — but instead the pair bonded and became literal buddies.


READ MORE:
No bull: B.C. home to one massive steer

Buddy is so big, in fact, that he keeps outgrowing his shelter.

However, the Buddy story may be coming to an end. Saiko told Global News he’s moving and can’t take the steer with him so whoever buys the farm may get a massive cow in the deal.

“I hope that if someone does buy my property, they’d want to keep him,” said Saiko.

‘Rescued’ wildfire dogs

WATCH: B.C. Wildfires: Owner of ‘rescued’ puppies say dogs weren’t lost






It looked like the heartwarming story B.C. needed during another brutal year of wildfires.

Five “lost” 12-week-old Maremma puppies were found and “rescued” by a BC Wildfire crew on patrol near Lumby in August.

The crew had found the dogs on the side of the road, and after calling local authorities and learning there were no houses nearby, took the dogs in.


READ MORE:
‘Rescued’ puppies being returned to owner: B.C. SPCA

However, it turned out the dogs weren’t lost at all.

Their owner, Heidi Lang, said the dogs were actually wandering her 640-acre beef-and-sheep farm and were about half a kilometre from her residence.

The dogs were returned safely.

Bear enters 95-year-old’s pantry, she chases him out

WATCH: 95-year-old B.C. woman chases black bear out of kitchen






Anna Stady was watching TV in her home in Union Bay, near Courtenay, in August when she had an experience she won’t soon forget.

The 95-year-old said she heard a noise in the kitchen — and when she investigated, found herself face-to-face with a bear.

“I chased it out, told it to go home, and it just went part-way, and I said: ‘Go on, go home,’” Stady told Global News.


READ MORE:
‘I chased him out’: 95-year-old Vancouver Island woman finds black bear in her pantry

The bear headed out to the woods — only to return minutes later, this time getting into the baking goods.

“It was the same bear. Only he knocked over the sugar bin, and oh, what a mess,” Stady said.

She chased the bear out once again and is rather humble about the whole story.

“It wasn’t even that exciting. I don’t know why it is getting that much excitement,” Stady said.

Pig adopted, then eaten

WATCH: Molly the pet pig adopted from the BC SPCA killed and eaten by new owners






While many of the stories on this list are cute or funny, not all of them have happy endings — including the following three.

One of the animal stories of 2018 that elicited some of the strongest response from our readers was the story of Molly the three-year-old Vietnamese potbelly pig.


READ MORE:
Pet pig adopted from BC SPCA killed and eaten by new owners

Her story drew outrage when it emerged that she had been adopted from the BC SPCA last January, only to be killed and eaten by her new owners about a month later.

What’s more, Molly’s new owners allegedly Snapchatted photos and videos of the meat being seasoned and prepared to eat.

The BC SPCA, while upset, said the owners were within their legal rights to kill the pig so long as it was done humanely.


READ MORE:
‘I do promise that Molly died humanely’: Owner who killed adopted pig apologizes

The owner later posted to Facebook to apologize and said he arrived at the decision to kill the pig after it became aggressive with his dogs and tried breaking through a door.

“I do promise that Molly died humanely, and it was not done for fun or for sport,” he wrote.

“I realize that what I did was wrong and I cannot fix it. I can only continue to apologize.”

J-35, J-50 and the southern resident orcas

WATCH: Orca lets go of dead calf after carrying it for 17 days






The fate of B.C.’s endangered southern resident orcas was an ongoing story throughout 2018, animated heartbreakingly by the sad fate of two members of the J-pod.

The orca known as J-35 made international headlines when her calf died shortly after birth.


READ MORE:
Marathon of mourning ends for mother orca, seen without dead calf for first time in weeks

Rather than letting it go, she took it on an epic journey, keeping the dead calf afloat and pushing it through the water for more than two weeks and 1,500 kilometres.

A second J-pod orca, J-50, also became the focus of international attention after she stopped eating and became severely emaciated.

WATCH: Fate of ailing orca J50 still undecided






A joint effort by Canadian and U.S. scientists to try and diagnose her problem, give her antibiotics and revive the three-year-old female lasted for months, but to no avail.

J-50 was last sighted in mid-September, and after days of fruitless searching, government officials and NGOs concluded she must have died.

The loss of J-50, a breeding-age female, left the southern resident population at just 74 animals and highlighted the plight of the struggling group.

Concern over their future became a key element of a Federal Court of Appeal decision to send the Trans Mountain Pipeline back to regulators to consider its effect on the marine environment.

It also prompted new whale watching regulations in B.C., while in Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee instituted a partial ban on the practice and dedicated $1 billion in funding to preserve orcas and the wild salmon they feed on.

The Yukon grizzly attack

WATCH: Victims of Yukon grizzly attack were ‘living the dream’ says friend






The most tragic of this year’s animal stories was the death of a Yukon mother and her infant daughter in an attack by a grizzly bear in November.

Valé​rie Thé​orêt and her 10-month-old daughter Adele Roesholt were mauled to death on Nov. 26 outside their remote trapping cabin northeast of Mayo, Yukon.

The child’s father, Gjermund Roesholt, made the horrifying discovery upon returning to the cabin — after himself being charged by the bear, which he fatally shot.


READ MORE:
‘They were living the dream’: Community reels after Yukon mom and baby killed by grizzly bear

The death sent shockwaves through the community, which described the family as “living the dream” before the tragedy.

The incident put a spotlight on the region and its lifestyle but prompted a reaction from locals who said such attacks are extremely rare and that living in “the bush” is safer than the city in its own way.

Results of a necropsy on the bear have yet to be made public.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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