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Nanaimo News Bulletin’s top 10 most-memorable animal stories of 2022

A feathered friendship, ice rescues and a remarkable migration highlight this year’s list
A feathered friendship between an eaglet and a hawklet, a deer rescued after falling through ice, a baby porpoise freed from a tidal pool and a praying mantis that the cat dragged in were some of the News Bulletin’s most-memorable animal stories of 2022. (Photos submitted)

10. Dog that was dragged behind pickup receiving care from Nanaimo SPCA, Nov. 29

A German shepherd suffered significant injuries after it fell off the back of a vehicle it was tethered to and was dragged.

Heidi suffered “devastating injuries” due to the incident, the B.C. SPCA said in a press release. RCMP were notified of the incident by a witness and found Heidi on the side of the road “in critical distress.” The dog was rushed to a veterinary hospital and promptly admitted for emergency surgery. The incident took place in Duncan, but the animal received care in Nanaimo

In the press release, Eileen Drever, B.C. SPCA spokesperson, said she was shocked to see the dog’s injuries as its “paws and lower leg were worn down to the bone.” The physical and psychological pain would have been “unimaginable,” she said.

Heidi was “recovering nicely” and was expected to be put up for adoption.

9. Cat lost on the other side of the Island shows up in Nanaimo, gets reunited with owner, Nov. 1

A lost cat was reunited with its owner after an absence of close to four months.

A cat named Hobbes was brought in as a stray into the Nanaimo community animal centre after wandering into a house in Nanaimo.

“The finder noticed he was a little bit on the skinny side … she did the right thing by bringing him in to us,” said Kevanna Mirau, animal care attendant with the Nanaimo and District B.C. SPCA. “Every time an animal comes into our care … we always scan for a microchip and check for a tattoo, so we [did] and he had one.”

The owner, a Victoria resident, said the cat was lost at a boat launch at Kennedy Lake near the Island’s west coast several months earlier after being scared by a dog, and could not be located despite a week-long search by the owner.

“We’re thrilled with this happy ending and if Hobbes the cat could talk, we would love to know how he got from Kennedy Lake and what happened in between,” said Wendy Kotorynski, Nanaimo B.C. SPCA senior manager.

8. Police dog Knight helps apprehend ‘roof top crawler’ in downtown Nanaimo, Apr. 21

A Nanaimo police dog helped with the arrest of a suspected burglar who had been clambering over downtown rooftops.

RCMP dispatchers received a call from a resident who reported they could hear footsteps on the roof of a building on Church Street.

RCMP officers surrounded the building and tried to reason with the suspect, before working with Nanaimo Fire Rescue firefighters to breach the front door of the business. Police service dog Knight assisted in subduing the “highly agitated” man.

Knight sustained several minor injuries to his paws and required medical treatment at a local animal hospital.

“This was an extremely dynamic situation where investigators were faced with apprehending a highly unpredictable and violent offender who appeared to be under the influence of unknown substances,” said reserve Const. Gary O’Brien in the press release. “Police service dog Knight and his handler were instrumental in bringing this critical incident to relatively quick conclusion.”

7. Cat drags in praying mantis, which it turns out, can be found on occasion in Nanaimo, Sept. 14

A Nanaimo woman was surprised earlier to find what the cat dragged in – a praying mantis.

Kailey DeFehr said her cat was batting at what she thought was a leaf in the hallway of her Wellington-area home, but on closer inspection, she realized the ‘leaf’ had legs.

“I realized it was a large bug that was turned over onto its back, so I asked my boyfriend to come put it outside for me and he picked it up and said, ‘Oh my God, it’s a praying mantis, I didn’t know we had these here…’” she said. “I don’t like creepy-crawlies for the most part, but when I realized what it was, I was more intrigued than grossed out.”

Tim Goater, an academic emeritus with Vancouver Island University’s biology department, said praying mantises were introduced in the Okanagan in the 1930s to control grasshopper population. He said it’s possible mantises, with their sticky egg sacs, were transported onto the Island.

“I live in Lantzville and once every couple of summers, I find them in the raspberry canes. It’s not unusual that they’re going to be found on Vancouver Island,” he said.

DeFehr reported that the insect she found survived its interaction with the cat and she was trying to feed it fruit flies.

“He’s started to move his head. I named him Manny,” she said.

6. Beached baby porpoise rescued from tidal pool in Nanoose Bay, Aug. 16

Members of the public and marine mammal response staff came to the rescue of a stranded porpoise on Vancouver Island.

Paul Cottrell, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine mammal response coordinator, said he and another specialist on scene, with assistance from beach-goers at Pacific Shores Resort and Spa in Nanoose Bay, were able to help the porpoise. Someone with a paddleboard helped guide the mammal into deep waters.

Nathalie Marie, who lives close by, was the one who spotted the calf and she said the rescue was a memorable experience.

“It was the most beautiful, little, soft creature I’ve ever touched,” said Marie. “I’ll never forget.”

5. Nanaimo firefighters rescue dog from drain pipe after ‘yelp for help,’ July 1

Nanaimo firefighters were able to rescue a dog that could have drowned in a drain pipe if it hadn’t gotten help.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews were called to Labieux Road and Oriole Drive on Canada Day after a beagle named Dobby had gotten into a 40-centimetre pipe.

Firefighters found a manhole close enough that using a flashlight, they could see the dog.

“The dog was at a real risk for drowning because the dog was unable to put their paws on anything. It was just kind of swimming in one static spot,” said David Dales, Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief.

The crew taped a blanket onto the end of a 150-foot fire hose – “I’ll use their term: they basically made a big Q-tip,” he said – and inserted into the pipe. With something to claw onto, the dog allowed itself to be pulled backward out of the pipe to safety.

“There was a couple dog lovers on the fire engine and they used their creativity,” Dales said. “They were pretty determined to help.”

4. Canada goose from Vancouver Island makes it all the way to the Great Lakes, Feb. 3

A Canada goose, tagged as part of a research project in Nanaimo, managed to make its way to a park in Chicago. Why the bird ended up 3,000 kilometres from its home turf is a mystery.

Eric Demers, a biology professor at Vancouver Island University, said the bird was tagged in 2016 and was one of about 400 geese that VIU biology students banded and collared over two years. The neck collars display highly visible letters and numbers that people can use to report a bird’s identity and location to the VIU Canada Goose Project website.

The goose wearing collar No. 085P was spotted by a woman in Lincoln Park in Chicago. She was contacted via e-mail to confirm the sighting wasn’t a hoax or mistake.

Why one goose travelled all the way from the Harbour City to the Windy City is unknown. Demers said it could have been blown off course by a storm.

“Maybe its compass was not organized right. Maybe it caught a flight of some other geese, although most geese that migrate a lot here stay on the coast side,” he said.

3. Dog rescued after falling through ice on lake south of Nanaimo, Jan. 12

Volunteer firefighters rushed to an icy lake south of Nanaimo to come to the rescue of a dog that had fallen through the ice.

North Cedar Volunteer Fire Department members were called to Hemer Provincial Park to a report of a dog that had fallen through the ice on Holden Lake and was unable to climb up onto the ice or make its way to shore.

Two firefighters crossed the lake from the Hemer Park side on the inflatable rescue boat while a third firefighter entered the water from the opposite shore and managed to reach the dog. It was losing consciousness in the near-freezing water, but firefighters had it on shore and in a blanket minutes after mounting the rescue effort.

Mike Newman, owner of Sakari, a one-year-old Bernese mountain dog-Great Pyrenees cross, said the dog was doing well after being treated and would return home from the vet to a warm bed near the fireplace.

“Normally she and our other dog, Diesel, are supposed to stay here in our yard to look after the yard and keep an eye on our chickens here, but I guess her nose got the better of her and she found her way out onto the ice,” Newman said.

2. Deer rescued after falling through ice on Nanaimo’s Westwood Lake, Jan. 25

A deer that fell through the ice on a lake was warmer and drier thanks to a boat ride to shore with Nanaimo firefighters.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue and B.C. Conservation Officer Service were called to Westwood Lake when they received a call about a deer that had fallen through ice on the lake and was unable to reach land.

“We got a call from the public about a deer that went through the ice, on one of the few remaining spots of ice on a corner of the lake,” said Stuart Kenning, Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief of operations.

Firefighters launched a rescue boat to the site where the deer was struggling and tried to break a path through the ice to the shore, but when the deer did not want to move toward the shore, a conservation officer and firefighters hauled the animal aboard the boat and brought it back to the boat ramp.

“We brought him up on the beach and warmed him up with towels and carried him to the woods and he hopped off to live a happy little life,” Kenning said.

1. From ‘food’ to family member: B.C. hawklet adopted by eagles, June 22

A red-tailed hawklet that was supposed to be an eaglet’s dinner inadvertently became its adopted sibling on a B.C. Gulf Island off Nanaimo.

Pam McCartney, communications director for Gabriola Rescue of Wildlife Society, said the hawklet was dropped in a Gabriola Island eagles’ nest. GROWLS keeps a webcam trained on the nest so the society and members of the public can watch a pair of eagles raise their young each year.

The little hawk was much smaller than the eaglet it was intended as a meal for, but instead of becoming dinner, over time it started snuggling up to the eaglet.

“By the time nightfall happened, mom was brooding over both of them and sheltering them both from the rain,” McCartney said. “It made me very happy.”

Within the next couple of days the hawklet started cheeping for food and before long the female and male eagle were both feeding the little hawk.

“Now they’re like best friends,” McCartney said. “The hawk’s probably going to fly out of there soon, but they’re a happy family.”

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