Sharks, 'cougars' and bears, oh my!: Top 5 animal stories of 2016

Sharks and 'cougars' and bears, oh my! Finned and furred creatures dominated many of the headlines in 2016.

Finned and furred creatures had New Brunswick online viewers clicking

A large great white shark was spotted and filmed near St. Andrews in August. Biologists estimate it was nearly 20 feet long. (Nicole Leavitt/St. Andrews Sport Fishing Co.)

Sharks and 'cougars' and bears, oh my!

Finned and furred creatures dominated many of the headlines in 2016.

Here are the top five stories that had online viewers clicking and commenting:

1. Great white shark filmed near St. Andrews

In August, a great white shark was spotted and filmed in the Bay of Fundy near St. Andrews.

"It was huge," said Nicole Leavitt, a senior biologist with Sport Fishing Co., estimating it was about five metres in length, 1.5 metres wide and weighed more than 5,000 pounds.

Leavitt and others aboard the fishing vessel Sea Fox watched in awe as the shark's fin crested the ocean's surface for more than a minute.

"It was phenomenal," she said. "Absolutely a once in a lifetime encounter."

2. Man survives bear attack in New Bandon

Jeff Lyons suffered several lacerations under his left ribcage during the bear attack in New Bandon, N.B., on Sept. 29. (Cheryl Lyons Dudley/Facebook)

Jeff Lyons, 62, of McNamee, came face to face with a huge black bear and cub in September, and lived to tell the tale.

Lyons was tidying up around his remote camp in New Bandon when the fierce, protective mama bear snatched him up with her teeth and claws and shook him like a "rag doll," his sister Cheryl Lyons Dudley told CBC's Maritime Noon.

"He was screaming and flailing his arms," when he managed to grab a piece of wood and strike the bear across the face several times until the animal ran into the woods.

Lyons suffered deep teeth wounds in his upper right shoulder and in the middle of his back and lacerations under his left ribcage from the bear's claws. He was also in shock from the near-death experience, but thankful to be alive, his sister said.

3. 'Cougar' captured on video in Grand Falls

A Grand Falls woman claims she has captured a cougar on camera as it walked through a field across from her home in northwestern New Brunswick. 0:43

Was it a cat? Or maybe a lynx? Possibly a bobcat?

Michele McLaughlin, of Grand Falls, was adamant about what she saw in the field across from her home in October.

"It was a big cougar. I mean it was big, like really big."

There have only been two proven cases of cougars being in New Brunswick.

McLaughlin managed to capture the long, dark animal on video and showed it to retired conservation officer George Levesque, who said he was certain it was a cougar.

But Moncton Zoo general manager Bruce Dougan, who works with big cats daily, said he couldn't be sure.

"To make any positive determination you'd have to have a good full shot of the body and to see the full tail," he said.

4. Right whale freed from fishing gear near Campobello

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      ​An endangered right whale entangled in fishing lines in the Bay of Fundy near Campobello Island in August tugged at the heartstrings of viewers.

      The six-year-old male had 5/8-inch polyblend line wrapped around its head and flippers, through the baleen and around its body. Two orange, polyester flotation balls were also cinched to its body, just behind the blowholes.

      It was one of the most severely entangled whales a group of researchers and rescuers had ever seen. It took them about five hours to free him.

      The whale, dubbed FDR after former U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt, who nearly died when he contracted polio at Campobello in the summer of 1921, was in poor condition — but the team was hopeful.

      "​Researchers hope that this whale, facing life-threatening physical challenges, has the good fortune of its namesake and survives and goes on to contribute to the recovery of the most endangered large whale species in the Atlantic," they said.

      5. Rare goose on the loose in Fredericton

      His flight was supposed to go to Europe, but this pink-footed goose instead ended up on a golf vacation in Fredericton. Hardly par for the course, say excited birdwatchers. 0:28

      A bird of a different feather was holding court on the fairways of the Carmen Creek Golf Course in Fredericton this summer.

      Bird watchers came flocking to see the pink-footed goose, rarely found in North America.

      Pinkfeet, as they are nicknamed, breed in Greenland and Iceland, and migrate all over the North Atlantic, at least the European side. They winter in Ireland, Great Britain, and Northwestern Europe.

      But this pinkfoot seemed right at home with a group of locals, a flock of Canada geese.