10 animal stories that roared into the headlines in 2018


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.

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.

‘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.

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.

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.

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.

‘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.

‘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.

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.

‘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.

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.

‘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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Trump will be impeached — plus nine other headlines you’ll read in 2019


Hark! Breaking news …

To those who view the next 12 months with unspeakable horror, O ye of little faith.

In 2019, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence could move into the spotlight, Tony Burman writes.
In 2019, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence could move into the spotlight, Tony Burman writes.  (DOUG MILLS / NYT)

I have some good news to impart.

Having stared into the abyss for two years since Donald Trump’s election, at least part of the world seems on the verge of scampering back to safety.

As proof, here is an early peek at the top 10 international headlines of 2019.

1. Mueller declares Trump illegitimate

America’s great constitutional crisis over Trump’s presidency finally unfolds. In spite of Trump’s attacks, special counsel Robert Mueller is able to issue his report, which is a scathing condemnation of the president and his family for committing a multitude of crimes. He concludes that Trump is an illegitimate president acting more like the boss of a crime family in the pocket of the Russian mafia than the duly elected head of the world’s oldest democracy. Mueller reveals that Trump conspired with the Russian government to steal the 2016 election and worked tirelessly after that to cover it up.

2. Impeachment of a president

Even though Trump’s actions have long been alleged and suspected, Mueller’s report has an explosive impact on American public opinion. Trump’s approval rating immediately plunges to less than 20 per cent. Even the Republican party becomes bitterly divided. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives swiftly responds by voting to impeach the president, which means that a Senate trial will determine whether Trump will be removed from office.

3. Trump resigns to avoid jail

Even if Trump survives in the Republican-controlled Senate, it becomes clear he could never be re-elected in 2020 and he realizes he may end up in jail. Once out of office, Trump would face criminal charges that have already sent his former aides to jail. Just as the Senate trial is to begin, Trump denounces the process as being “rigged” and does what Richard Nixon did in 1974: he resigns and ensures that the new president — in Trump’s case, Vice-President Mike Pence — “pardons” him. (For those terrified at the prospect of a “President Pence,” remember that Gerald Ford was brutally punished for pardoning Nixon in the presidential election that followed, when he lost to Jimmy Carter.)

4. Brexit reversed in second vote

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray poses outside the Houses of Parliament.
Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray poses outside the Houses of Parliament.  (OLI SCARFF)

In 2016, the U.K. voted narrowly to withdraw from the European Union in a highly controversial referendum. The campaign to “Leave” the EU made false promises to further the cause. More recently, the proposed exit deal worked out by Prime Minister Theresa May in December with the EU also proved to be unpopular. As a last resort, the U.K. Parliament decides to organize a second referendum — asking voters to choose either May’s draft agreement or the status quo of Britain still inside the EU. The “Remain” side this time wins a clear victory.

5. North Korea goes nuclear

It was only six months ago that Donald Trump met North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Singapore and announced there was “no longer a Nuclear threat” from Kim’s regime. What has happened since? Not much, except that North Korea has continued to expand its nuclear program in spite of Trump’s empty assurances. Events in 2019 will only confirm what most observers suspected in Singapore: in their “historic” negotiation, Kim took Trump to the cleaners. North Korea will keep increasing its nuclear threat.

6. China, America in a new cold war

The rivalry between the U.S. and an emerging China may be this century’s most important dynamic, and events in the months ahead will show why. The U.S. government no longer sees China as a “strategic partner” as previous governments have, but as a major “adversary” that needs to be confronted. Donald Trump’s complaint during the presidential campaign that China has been “raping” America is becoming a dangerous motivator of U.S. policy toward the Asian superpower. This is evident not only in America’s provocative trade war with China, but also its determination to hit back aggressively on all fronts.

7. Global economy nosedives

It was 10 years ago that the world was plunged into its worst crisis since the Great Depression. Banks collapsed, housing prices fell, unemployment spiked and millions of people in North America and Europe lost their homes. Few analysts are predicting that the history is about to repeat itself — although the 2008 recession caught most people by surprise — but there is worry that a deep recession will take hold in late 2019 or during 2020. The outlook is that a decade-long burst of global economic growth, including in the U.S., is coming to an end.

8. Europe’s far right advances

The next ideological battleground in Europe will be in May with the election for the European Parliament. Europe’s anti-immigrant, pro-nationalist far-right parties are positioned to make significant gains as more moderate parties have floundered in recent national elections. Steve Bannon, an architect of Trump’s victory in the U.S., is launching a Europe-wide “project” to bolster the extremist vote. The right-wing parties in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and even Sweden will make breakthroughs in the European Parliament. and their strength will weaken the European Union as a whole.

9. U.S. abortion rights overturned

With the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court became the most conservative in generations, and its impact will be enormous. That ultimately may be Trump’s most lasting legacy. Kavanaugh replaced Anthony Kennedy as the perpetual “swing vote” and the court’s conservative majority will have several key issues in front of it in 2019. One will be the historic Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 that declared abortion a constitutional right. There is an expectation that Kavanaugh’s swing vote will overturn it.

10. Emergence of a pariah state

Amid international concern about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some 200 protesters gathered in central Tunis in November to protest the Saudi crown prince's arrival for talks with the Tunisian president.
Amid international concern about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some 200 protesters gathered in central Tunis in November to protest the Saudi crown prince’s arrival for talks with the Tunisian president.  (Hassene Dridi)

Saudi Arabia’s killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is changing everything in the Middle East. A year ago, the U.S. government had high hopes for the region with a plan drawn up by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It counted on Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to lead an anti-Iran, pro-Israel coalition that would reshape the region in a radical way. But all of that is in shambles as efforts to whitewash Prince Mohammed’s responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder collapse.

My track record

In the past two years, I have made 20 predictions for 2017 and 2018. Using my own self-serving process of scoring, I gave myself a passing grade on 15 of those 20 predictions.

In 2017, I was right on an eye-popping nine out of 10 predictions, but, sadly, this was not to last. Did a Trump-like hubris infect my bloodstream? For this current year, I was correct, more or less, on only six out of 10 predictions, covering the U.S., China, Iran and the Middle East.

And I was certainly wrong — or premature — in forecasting the “collapse” of the British government this year over the Brexit issue.

But maybe a half-point is given for being ahead of the curve? (No, I didn’t think so.)

Happy new year.

Tony Burman, formerly head of CBC News and Al Jazeera English, is a freelance contributor for the Star. He is based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyBurman


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