The News Bulletin’s top 10 most-memorable animal stories of 2020 include articles about the recovery of accidentally poisoned eagles, clockwise from top left, two dogs that survived a cougar attack, a disabled cat that teaches foster kittens ‘how to cat,’ and a store’s horse mascot dressed up as Dr. Bonnie Henry. (News Bulletin and submitted photos)

The News Bulletin’s top 10 most-memorable animal stories of 2020 include articles about the recovery of accidentally poisoned eagles, clockwise from top left, two dogs that survived a cougar attack, a disabled cat that teaches foster kittens ‘how to cat,’ and a store’s horse mascot dressed up as Dr. Bonnie Henry. (News Bulletin and submitted photos)

Nanaimo News Bulletin’s top 10 most-memorable animal stories of 2020

Dogs and cats, salmon, ‘tarantula moth,’ and even a dinosaur made this year’s list

10. Departure Creek restoration meant to make habitat more fish-friendly, Aug. 25.

Fish are as cute and fluffy as some of the animals on the list, but those in Nanaimo know the importance of salmon to the circle of life in our streams and oceans.

This past summer, Departure Creek Streamkeepers, along with numerous partners, put on their galoshes and got to work on restoring a side channel for salmon at Woodstream Park.

Departure Creek is one of the only creeks left in Nanaimo that can support rearing coho and the side channel is a critical refuge for the young salmon at the time of year when the babbling brook becomes a torrent.

Jean-Michel Hanssens, a member of the Departure Creek Streamkeepers and the Departure Bay Neighbourhood Association, said a female coho might deposit 2,500 eggs, of which 10 per cent will hatch, 10 per cent of those will go to the ocean as smolt and 10 per cent of those will come back as adult fish. Along the way heron, otters and even cutthroat will feed on coho.

“A tremendous amount of stuff goes on in order for one fish to come back,” Hanssens said. “He’s got to survive. It’s a cycle.”

9. Nanaimo emergency room staff appreciates police dogs, Jan. 6.

One of the first animal stories of 2020 involved health-care workers getting to pet a good dog.

Nanaimo RCMP stopped by Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and brought along police service dog Jager to meet emergency room staff.

ER staff donated $700 to Ned’s Wish, a charity that provides financial support for retired police dogs. Sometimes police dogs sustain injuries in the course of their duties that can leave them needing extra care, medical equipment or medication.

“The staff in Nanaimo Emergency are big dog lovers and appreciate that the police dogs and their handlers also face dangerous and unpredictable incidents…” said Sherry Volk, nursing unit assistant, in a press release. “We appreciate what they do for our community.”

8. ‘Tarantula moth’ spotted in broad daylight on Vancouver Island, July 3.

This article was originally published in our sister paper the Goldstream Gazette, but as soon as we shared it with our readers on social media, we received numerous comments and photos from readers who had seen polyphemus moths in and around Nanaimo. A worker at a local home improvement store sent some great close-ups of one of the huge insects hanging out on a shopping cart.

Royal B.C. Museum told Black Press the polyphemus moth is one of the largest insects in B.C.

“[They’re] not often seen because they are active as adult moths at night,” said Claudia Copley, entomology researcher. “Sometimes they turn up at people’s porch light and then are reported to me here at the museum. The wings are beautiful, especially the top view.”

7. Dogs survive cougar attack, family asks for help with vet bills, Nov. 11.

One of the most-read animal stories on our website was first published in the Ladysmith Chronicle, about two dogs that survived a cougar attack on Takala Road just south of Nanaimo Airport.

The owner rushed the dogs to Chase River Animal Hospital. One was treated for relatively minor wounds, but the other had to be treated at Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital on the Lower Mainland. It underwent an eight-hour surgery to remove a bone fragment from its brain and lost an eye, but ultimately survived the cougar attack, surprising even the veterinarian there.

The vet bill caused the family to have to max out credit cards and appeal to the community with an online fundraiser that raised more than $20,000.

6. Horse mascot’s Dr. Bonnie Henry outfit popular with store’s customers in Cassidy, June 9.

The best-dressed animal on our list for 2020 had to have been Cantelope, the horse mascot that lives outside the Trading Post Feed and Tack store in Cassidy, south of Nanaimo.

Store owner Meredith Dean dressed up Cantelope as B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, attired in a white blouse under a bright pink sweater, a red and white necklace, homemade pink and red pumps and a blonde wig. A speaker’s podium with fake microphones completed the set-up.

Dean chose to pay tribute to Henry out of admiration for the doctor’s calm demeanour during her daily pandemic briefings.

The photo was a hit on social media and passersby stopped at the store daily to take selfies with the horse.

“We’d say, hey we’ve got a customer, but no, they’re just getting their picture taken with Bonnie Henry,” Dean said.

5. Ten poisoned eagles rushed to Nanaimo for treatment, Feb. 18.

Quick work to reverse the effects of euthanasia drugs saved the lives of several eagles earlier this year.

Veterinarian Ken Langelier and his staff at Island Veterinary Hospital were busy preparing several eagles for release and recovery, with nine of the 10 poisoned birds expected to survive. The birds became ill after they consumed large amounts of meat from the carcass of a deceased animal at the Nanaimo Regional Landfill.

The veterinarian said, judging from the birds’ stomach and crop contents, it appeared the meat might have come from a pig that had been euthanized. Sodium pentobarbital, the drug used to carry out animal euthanasia, remains in the carcass at toxic levels, so euthanized animals must be buried or cremated to prevent contact with scavengers.

“The landfill wasn’t aware that an animal had been brought in that was that was euthanized,” Langelier said. “If people would just tell them, they have a special area that they use and they bury them immediately so there is no possible animal exposure.”

4. Lantzville business now guarded by animatronic dinosaur, Aug. 23.

A creature from the cretaceous period was brought to life in Lantzville.

Businessman and former mayoral candidate Stan Pottie was one of the successful buyers of an animatronic dinosaur at a high-profile auction, and now proudly displays his amargasaurus at the entrance to his property on Clark Drive West where he owns Country Buds CBD health store and operates an excavating company.

The amargasaurus, named Lance, weighs in at about 850 pounds and is nine feet tall and 31 feet long. It comes with a remote control, so Pottie has surprised people by peeking out his office window and turning it on when they get close.

He said it’s been “an absolute joy” to see children excited to see the dinosaur.

3. Nanaimo cat with a disability can still teach foster kittens ‘how to cat,’ Aug. 9.

Lemon was brought to the B.C. SPCA facility in Nanaimo as a stray kitten after suffering paralysis in its back legs from a dog attack.

Amy Hunt, a veterinary tech assistant at VCA Canada Island Animal Hospital on Bowen Road, fostered and subsequently adopted the orange cat, which is receiving laser and electro-acupuncture treatment and seeing a good quality of life.

“It would be very unlikely for him ever to walk again [but] he’s adapted very well. This is all he’s really known, so he’s very happy,” Hunt told the News Bulletin. “He can move around probably as fast as any other kitty and he doesn’t think he’s any different than any other cat really.”

Lemon even had the chance to pay it forward, acting as a surrogate sibling to a pair of orphaned kittens, teaching them “how to cat,” according to a press release from B.C. SPCA Nanaimo branch.

2. Nanaimo city councillors looking at bylaw that would keep cats from roaming neighbourhoods, Nov. 14.

As if we didn’t know it already, people have strong opinions about their pets.

An article about a new animal bylaw governing pet owners’ responsibilities drew some of the highest social-media engagement of any of our news articles in a newsy 2020.

The bylaw covers animal welfare, control, licensing, duties of animal owners, penalties and enforcement, but the bulk of conversation was about a regulation within the bylaw that would keep cats from roaming neighbourhoods. Owners would have to keep cats indoors or on a leash outdoors to keep cats from roaming to prevent them from being injured by other cats and dogs or even eaten by wildlife, injured or killed in traffic, exposed to contagious disease and parasites and extreme weather, poisoned, stolen or harmed through animal cruelty.

The bylaw was scheduled to see three readings in November, but city council motioned for further public consultation and another look at the bylaw in the new year.

“I love the word voluminous. I don’t get to use the word that often, but that certainly describes the level of correspondence council’s received,” said Mayor Leonard Krog.

1. Nanaimo Fire Rescue rope team saves dog from Abyss crevice, July 21.

Joey the Australian shepherd and his owner breathed sighs of relief after the dog was saved by a Nanaimo Fire Rescue technical rope rescue team.

Firefighters and police were called to the Extension Ridge Trail after the dog fell an estimated 18 metres into a fissure and couldn’t get out. Firefighter Justin Lynch was selected to go into the Abyss since he is slim enough to fit into the narrow space.

“We weren’t sure if the dog was even alive,” said Geoff Whiting, Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief of operations. “The reports we got is that they could hear the dog barking at first and then didn’t hear it. It ended up being about 50 feet down.”

The pet owner said in an e-mail to the News Bulletin that the dog was x-rayed and sustained no injuries at all in the fall, and later submitted a bouquet of thanks to all involved.

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