Stowaway kitties, hero pigs and a deer that swam with orcas: 2023 animal stories we loved

Whether they’re flippered, feathered or furry, animals seem to have a special way of sneaking into our hearts, inspiring awe or making us laugh.

They’re also great at making headlines, something we especially appreciate here at Global BC.

As we head into 2024, we’re recapping some of the animal stories that warmed our hearts or inspired a chuckle.

B.C. lynx caught on camera playing with rope swing

Click to play video: 'B.C. lynx captured on camera playing with rope swing in Trail backyard'

B.C. lynx captured on camera playing with rope swing in Trail backyard

B.C. doesn’t have the nickname “Super, Natural British Columbia” for nothing.

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There aren’t many places in the world where you can find a creature as majestic as a lynx horsing around in your backyard.

But that’s just what happened in January for Trail resident Kimberly Heppner, who caught one of the big cats on camera as it made merry with her family’s rope swing.

In the video, shot from her kitchen window, the lynx can be seen pawing at the rope, chewing on it and giving it a chase.

We should all be so lucky!

Cat found in parcel originating from China by CBSA officers in Richmond, B.C.

Click to play video: 'Stowaway cat discovered at YVR in box from China'

Stowaway cat discovered at YVR in box from China

It wasn’t just wild cats making headlines in B.C. this year, the mighty house cat makes a couple of appearances on this list.

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The first story involves a little feline dubbed “Precious Cargo” after she was discovered as a stowaway in a parcel originating in China.

Canada Border Service Agency officers at the Vancouver International Mail Centre in Richmond found the little lady in May.

“When the CBSA officer looked into the box, the officer saw a pair of eyes staring back which blinked,” Binder Kooner, chief of operations for the CBSA said at the time.

The officers were able to coax her out of the box into a spare kennel.

Precious Cargo was then transferred to the BC SPCA for care, where she got vaccinated, rehydrated and placed with a foster mom to help her get comfortable after the scary experience.

‘Awesome’: B.C. bear shoplifts bag of candy from gas station

Click to play video: 'Bear raids Vancouver Island convenience store'

Bear raids Vancouver Island convenience store

No roundup of B.C. animal headlines would be complete without a bear story, and this year is no different.

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This year’s brazen bruin proved to have a sweet tooth, and was caught on camera helping himself to treats at a Vancouver Island gas station.

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“This little black bear walked in the door,” said Karen deGoesbriand, owner of Tiptons Gas Bar in Lake Cowichan, describing the situation as “a first.”

“(It) started walking around the store, checking stuff out — sniffing at everything,” she added.

After exploring the store, the bear settled on his snack of choice, a 75-cent bag of gummy bears, before wandering back into the great outdoors.

Blind Paralympian and her guide dog find missing woman on Vancouver Island

Click to play video: 'Blind Paralympian and guide dog locate missing senior'

Blind Paralympian and guide dog locate missing senior

Every good animal story list needs a hero dog. This story has a hero human too.

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It happened in Saanich and involved a gold-medal-winning Paralympian.

Jessica Tuomela is a blind para-triathlete, who relies on her guide dog Lucy in day-to-day life.

In May, she got an urgent text from a neighbour, worried about an aging relative with memory loss who had failed to return home from a walk.

Tuomela and Lucy had previously worked on scent trailing, and for the first time put the skill into action.

The neighbours had purchased a special kit for storing their relative’s scent. Lucy picked it up quickly and took off on a run, which Tuomela — an elite athlete — was able to keep up with.

“It took us over three kilometres and just over 40 minutes,” Tuomela recalled. “It was incredible when I realized we were doing a rescue, not a recovery.”

The pair caught up with the missing person at Elk Lake.

“Within seconds, my backup handler caught up and confirmed that this is who we were looking for,” Tuomela said.

“I just was really trying to remain calm … After she had been reunited with her family, I was definitely probably shaking for about 45 minutes. It was pretty incredible.”

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Plucky pig charges bear and defends her farm in encounter caught on video

Click to play video: 'Barbie-Q the pig comes snout to snout with hungry B.C. bear'

Barbie-Q the pig comes snout to snout with hungry B.C. bear

Did you hear the one about the pig that faced off against a black bear and won?

Just in case you didn’t we’ll recap.

It happened on the Ruff Acres hobby farm in Sooke, and the hero of the tale goes by the name of Barbie Q.

Owner Crystal Walls said she was “shocked” by the incident, which was captured on camera. Barbie, you see, is a bit of a baby.

“I mean, we have a goat and Barbie is terrified of them. She screams. She runs away when he comes within two feet of her,” Walls said.

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That all changed in June, while Walls was on holiday in Oregon and the house-sitter messaged her to say something had happened.

The sitter had discovered a bear breached a fence and had knocked a bag of grain onto the ground that the other animals had gotten into.

But it wasn’t until they reviewed security footage that the real story became clear.

In the footage, Barbie Q charges the bear — which backs off, sits down, and raises its paw — almost as if it was telling her to settle down.

She also can be seen helping corral and protect the other animals in the barn.

“It was super impressive,” said house sitter Christy Brookes.

“I think she was partially protecting, but also she wanted to show this bear that she was the boss.”

‘One in a million’: Deer photobombs killer whale in waters near B.C.-U.S. border

Click to play video: 'Photos of deer swimming with orca stuns social media users'

Photos of deer swimming with orca stuns social media users

Here’s a B.C. animal story involving not one but two species of wildlife — and a “one in a million” photo.

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It happened in June near a small island northwest of the San Juan Islands, just along B.C.’s border with Washington state.

The animal stars? A Bigg’s killer whale and a deer — swimming together.

The photo was captured by biologist Sam Murphy, who works for a local whale-watching company.

“Obviously, as whale watchers, it’s very common for us to see orcas. Occasionally you will see deer swimming from island to island,” said Pacific Whale Watch Association executive director Erin Gless.

“But I think it’s kind of a one-in-a-million chance to have the two of them in the same shot like this.”

The photo quickly went viral, with many people both shocked and relieved to learn the whale hadn’t made a snack of the deer.

But Gless said that would have been a surprising outcome, as Bigg’s orcas prefer to dine on fatty seals.

“I think sometimes, because they are called killer whales, people get this assumption that they’re just, you know, mindless killers that are out there hunting everything that they come across,” Gless said.  “But the truth is they are selective.”

Vancouver man accidentally sells couch with stowaway cat

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Click to play video: 'Vancouver cat goes on couch-surfing adventure'

Vancouver cat goes on couch-surfing adventure

2023 was, apparently, a big year for stowaway cats. The star of this story, however, didn’t travel quite as far.

It happened in February when Vancouver resident Matt Lumabi sold a couch while he was moving.

Lumabi told Global News he feared his fuzzy friend Marley had run away.

“I guess when I was selling it, Marley crawled underneath the couch, which we didn’t notice,” he said.

The buyers packed the couch up and took it with them, not realizing Marley had hitched a ride inside.

The sofa travelled to Steveston but was then re-sold to a second buyer.

“The guy who bought the couch from them found her,” Lumabi said.

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“The couch has a pouch underneath for the legs. She must have burrowed down in there for about three days.”

Meanwhile, Lumabi was worried sick. He tore his new apartment apart, put up posters and flooded local social media groups to put out the word.

Thankfully the pair were reunited, with no serious harm to Marley.

‘Survivor piggy’ Poomba eats airdropped granola bars, outlasts B.C. wildfire

Click to play video: 'Poomba the pig survives West Kelowna wildfire'

Poomba the pig survives West Kelowna wildfire

Rounding out this year’s list we have one last pig story, this time an incredible tale of wildfire survival.

Poomba the pig lived through the devastating McDougall Creek wildfire that destroyed scores of homes in West Kelowna in August.

The fire didn’t spare her home, the Broken Rail Ranch, either.

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Somehow a patch of grass did survive, and Poomba along with it.

“She was kind of in the eye of the storm and she was unharmed. I mean, it’s just crazy that she survived, not because of the fire itself but of the heat and the smoke,” said Keramia Lawrie, whose parents own the property.

Ranch owner Jeff Findlay had tried to load Poomba and her sister, Miss Wilbur for evacuation as flames bore down on the property — but eventually had to flee without them because they were too stubborn.

The family had assumed both pigs were lost — but learned days later Poomba had survived, and was spotted by a helicopter pilot.

“He actually threw down some granola bars from the helicopter and then the next day we knew she was OK and the fires calmed down a bit,” said Lawrie.

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