As has become our tradition this time of year, we at CBC Edmonton like to take a little time to look back at the animals that warmed — and broke — our hearts, raised debate and created Internet gold.
Here are some of our favourite homegrown animal stories from 2016, in chronological order.
'They called it puppy love'
A canine love story was caught on candid camera in January when Maggie, an Australian shepherd boarded at a St. Albert kennel, broke out of her pen to comfort some crying puppies.
After making international headlines with her nighttime caper, Maggie was later reunited for a quick visit with the puppies she comforted.
Elk Island bison head home
It was a homecoming more than a century in the making when 87 bison — descendants of the Pablo-allard herd — were returned to their ancestral territory in Montana.
- Elk Island bison headed home to Montana's Blackfeet Nation
- Alberta wild bison complete historic 650-km journey to ancestral Montana home
Man's best friends keep little girl safe in woods
Nine-year-old Meghan's family feared the worst when she and the family's three dogs failed to return home one chilly April evening. Following a huge search effort that yielded nothing, Meghan and the dogs walked out of the bush unharmed the following morning.
"She said that she had laid down and her dogs kind of huddled around her to keep her warm throughout the night," Sgt. Barry Larocque told CBC Edmonton.
Pets left behind
When a wildfire threatened Fort McMurray and about 90,000 area residents were forced to flee their homes, hundreds had no choice but to leave their pets behind.
Frantic requests flooded Facebook from pet owners asking for help in various ways, including donations of food and gas. Some even pleaded with those still in the city to break down their doors and rescue their animals.
Hundreds of animals were eventually rescued and brought to Calgary and Edmonton, where many owners had tearful reunions with their four-footed friends.
- Fort McMurray pets rescued by 'rogue' volunteer rescue team
- Hundreds of abandoned Fort McMurray pets rescued
- Pets evacuated from Fort McMurray wildfires receive help, but those left behind must wait
- Pets left in Fort McMurray after wildfire reunited with owners in Edmonton
- Purr-fect ending for Fort McMurray evacuee kittens
It's a model workout
Edmonton model Travis DesLaurier hit peak Internet traffic with a sound business strategy: a shirtless workout while perfectly coiffed, with a cat in hand.
To be more specific, with his pet cat, Jacob. A video of the two has been viewed more than 23 million times on Facebook, helping launch DesLaurier's modelling career.
"I don't want to do just the shirtless thing, but it's a good start," DesLaurier told CBC News.
When Kelin Flanagan and Spencer Taubner got engaged, they hired a professional photographer, drove to Banff, and hiked into Helen Lake to capture the perfect shot.
And then this little guy popped in for an adorable photobomb.
Despite having a furry visitor steal the spotlight, the couple still loves the shot. But they did have to work a little to convince their families it was real.
Friday the fawn
Sean Steele was driving to Prince Rupert, B.C. in June when a pickup truck ahead of him struck a female deer. He pulled over to move the doe's body to the ditch — that's when he noticed movement.
Steele quickly freed a baby deer via C-section and brought the fawn, which he named Friday, to a nearby wildlife refuge. Friday is now in good health and good spirits.
Gaylord goes missing
It's not every day that a five-foot-long, cold-blooded tropical pet goes on the lam in Edmonton — and even less common that it makes it home safe weeks later, hardly the worse for wear.
But then again, Gaylord isn't an ordinary iguana.
- Missing: One large iguana, answers to the name of Gaylord
- Lizard Lazarus: Gaylord the iguana returns home
In defence of spear hunting
A video went viral of an American hunter killing a bear in Alberta with a spear, an incident which eventually triggered a provincial investigation.
In the video, posted in June, personal trainer Josh Bowmar kills a bear with a hand-thrown spear. Online reaction was immediately fierce, with many questioning whether the practice caused the bear unnecessary suffering.
- Alberta government orders investigation into spear killing of bear
- Alberta spear hunter defends American who posted bear-killing video
One Alberta hunter, however, defended the spear hunter, saying: "The guy's a great hunter and should get a pat on the back for that."
Cat caddy makes purrrfect companion
Agile reflexes, a love of the game, and an extensive knowledge of the course — and she can't really give you any guff if you bungle your shot.
She may be the perfect caddy ... and her name is Hello Kitty.
It's a bird! It's a plane!
It's Tonka, the nine-year-old miniature pony who gets dressed up in a custom-made costume each Halloween.
This year, Tonka's owner Patty Kramps stitched matching costumes for herself and her steed, inspired by Pixar's The Incredibles.
Local hero helps young chimp move to safe refuge
Spencer Sekyer first met Manno three years ago at the Duhok Zoo in Iraq when he was doing volunteer work with a local veterinarian. As the two bonded, the Sherwood Park high school teacher became worried for Manno's future, since conditions in the zoo were challenging and chimps tend to grow more aggressive as they age.
"He's either going to be in a small abandoned cage for the rest of his life, or they'll sell him to the highest bidder or there's going to be a significant incident at the zoo," Sekyer told CBC News.
Then began his years-long quest to free Manno and transport him to Kenya, where he will now spend the rest of his life at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
- Saving Manno: An Alberta man's quest to rescue a chimpanzee from Iraq
- 'He's not meant to be here:' Sherwood Park man frees chimp from Iraqi zoo
- Jane Goodall lauds Edmonton-area man for chimp rescue
Cold rescue for rail-riding cat
On a bitterly cold night in early December, CN conductor Brad Slater was walking next to his train's engines when he heard a cat cry.
Thus began the saga of a cat Slater named Q199 (after the train it was found on). Despite a frozen ride from Saskatchewan on the train that left him encrusted in snow and ice, Q199 padded away from the ordeal with only a little frostbite.
Slater was all set to adopt his little rescue cat. But it turned out he belonged to someone else — a family in Saskatchewan, who had likewise rescued the cat from a CN rail yard years earlier, and named him Tiger.
- Rescue on the rails: CN crew finds cold kitty hitching a ride
- Owner found? Mixed emotions for train conductor who rescued cold cat
- Riding the rails back home: Cold kitty stowaway returns to Saskatchewan
Ending the year with a hoot
And finally, who could forget the surprising survival tale of a great horned owl, which came face to grille in a collision with a pickup truck on an Alberta highway. It lived to hoot the tale.