British Columbia

A girl-grabbing sea lion, a pink horse and a blob: B.C.'s best animal stories

When it comes to B.C. animal stories in the news you would be hard-pressed to make up better fiction. In 2017, a sea lion grabbed a girl by the dress and pulled her into the ocean, a teenage boy painted his family's horse pink and then there was a mysterious blob in Stanley Park.

'People are realizing ... that we're not separate from this thing called nature,' says Vancouver ecologist

Stranger than fiction: B.C. animal stories never disappoint. And there were some good ones in 2017. (CBC)

When it comes to B.C. animal stories in the news, you would be hard-pressed to make up better fiction.

In 2017, a sea lion grabbed a girl by the dress and pulled her into the ocean, a teenager painted his family's horse pink and then there was a mysterious blob in Stanley Park.

These stories, and others grabbed headlines here in B.C. and even across the globe as people couldn't seem to get enough of tales from the natural world.

'We're part of it'

"People are realizing more and more now that we're not separate from this thing called nature, that we're a part of it," said Celina Starnes, an ecologist with the Stanley Park Ecology Society.

Her job is to help people seek out wild experiences in Vancouver, particularly Stanley Park where, despite being right in the middle of a busy metropolis there are otters, beavers, coyotes and even flying squirrels.

"I think people have the opportunity to see themselves in a diverse world, in a world that still has a bit of mystery, still has a bit of wonder," said Starnes.

But as this past year showed, sometimes the wildlife comes to you.

The sea lion and the girl

In May, Simon Fraser University student Michael Fujiwara filmed the interaction between a sea lion and a girl on the docks in Steveston. It ended with the animal grabbing the girl by the dress and dragging her into the water.

The video was shared across the globe and prompted debate about how best to interact with animals that are curious and perhaps accustomed to being fed by humans.

Starnes says it's natural for humans to want to feed or even try to help animals who they think need it. However, she says it's often best to keep wildlife wild.

"A lot of time these peoples' hearts go out to these animals, they want to maybe feed them or shelter them somehow," she said.

"But the best way to keep these furry friends or feathered friends is to let them find their own food, let them find their own shelter."

Antler hammock

An animal that seemed to truly need the help of humans, however, was Hammy, a deer in Prince Rupert that got its antlers caught in a backyard hammock in August.

A Facebook group was created for Prince Rupert, B.C., residents to share their sightings of Hammy and his distinctive purple hammock. (David MacKenzie)

Police managed to free it from the purple fabric, but a portion of the material remained.

It took several days in November for conservation officers to catch up with the animal to remove the rest. They worried the fabric would affect the deer's ability to lock antlers with other males during rutting season.

During the months when Hammy was adorned with the purple fabric, T-shirts were made in its honour, people dressed as the deer for Halloween, and its story was chronicled on Facebook.

The pink horse

There wasn't a lot of levity during B.C.'s record-setting wildfire season, but what there was came from Rosy, a horse in the Interior, who was painted entirely pink by a 15-year-old boy.

Pictures of Rosy, a white-and-brown mare mistakenly painted neon pink by a teen in the British Columbia Interior, provided some welcome levity to residents dealing with wildfires. (Cindy Roddick/The Canadian Press)

His mother had asked him to paint a phone number on the white and brown mare in case flames came close to the hobby farm in Likely, B.C. If the animal needed to be released, the idea was that the phone number could lead to its return.

However, the teen misunderstood and painted the entire horse pink. The family said the horse didn't seem to mind.

The Stanley Park blob

As the hot summer dragged on, the water level in Vancouver's Lost Lagoon dropped, exposing a creature from its depths.

It may look like Jell-O but it's actually Pectinatella magnifica or bryozoan. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

Described as similar to week-old Jell-O by Starnes, the mysterious gloopy blob was actually Pectinatella magnifica or bryozoan, which has been around for ages.

Each colony is made up of tiny animals that are genetic clones of each other, and secrete a goo that binds them together, sometimes around a branch or rock. 

Dogs save dog walker

Then came the story of a dog walker stranded in the wilderness for three days after she was injured in a fall.

Chloe the border collie greets her owner Annette Poitras. (Marcel Poitras)

Annette Poitras and three dogs managed to survive by hunkering down in heavy forest on Coquitlam's Burke Mountain.

The 56-year-old credited the dogs with helping her stay alive by barking so that searchers could locate them.

"I love them, I love them, I just love dogs," she said upon being released from hospital on Nov. 28.

Annette Poitras is overwhelmed with emotion after being released from hospital 0:48