CBC Edmonton's most memorable animal stories from 2016

Need a break from the holiday hustle? Sit back, relax and read about some of our favourite animals who made the spotlight this year.

Really, who doesn't love tales about those with tails?

The Incredible Tonka and her owner Patty Kramps dressed as Edna Mole made our list of top animal stories. (Patty Kramps)

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.

Security cameras at Barker's Pet Motel caught Maggie the Australian shepherd cross's escape from her kennel - all in the effort of getting close to some crying puppies. 0:54

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.

In an effort to increase the population of bison on the Blackfeet Nation Reserve in Montana, 87 bison from Elk Island, Alta. are going to their ancestral home. This is not the first time that Elk Island has transferred bison to the United States, but it is the first time that the bison are being shipped to the Blackfeet Nation Reserve. 0:52

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.

Nine-year-old Meghan is pictured with her loyal dogs Brute, Starky and Prince shortly after she was found. The family asked that her last name not be used. (Submitted by Michael Cross)

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.

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.

Edmonton's Travis DesLaurier is looking to make his mark online, so he enlisted his cat to help. 0:50

Say cheese

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.

This friendly ground squirrel made an Edmonton couple's mountain engagement photo shoot extra memorable. (B.D.F.K. Photography)

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.

After a roadside C-section, Friday the fawn is thriving at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society in B.C. 0:33

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.

The Edmonton iguana was found safe and sound, four weeks after he clambered over a fence. 0:46

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.

U.S. hunter Josh Bowmar poses with a bear he killed with a spear. (YouTube)

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.

Hello Kitty the cat has made the Bent Stick Golf Course near Edmonton its home. 0:51

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.

Tonka the miniature pony from Legal, Alta. has an incredible Halloween costume - and for his owner, creating one-of-a-kind costumes is an annual tradition. 1:19

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.

Spencer Sekyer has spent three years trying to have Manno released from an Iraqi zoo to a sanctuary in Kenya - and on Tuesday, the chimp started his long journey. 1:03

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.

Brad Slater and Q the cat are enjoying getting to know each other. (CBC/Trevor Wilson)

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.

This great horned owl survived for hours stuck in the grille of a truck after it was hit on an Alberta highway. 0:54