For most, “animal rescue stories” summons images of cute kittens and puppies, sitting sadly behind bars at the shelter, waiting for their furr-ever home. But in the Bay Area, which is surrounded by the ocean, the Bay, mountains, and plenty of wildlife, animal rescuing often involves many more creatures than just dogs and cats. Here’s a roundup of the cutest, furriest, sweetest and happiest animal rescue stories from this year.
At first, this story didn’t seem likely to have a happy ending: Two orphaned baby black bear cubs, discovered in May and June hundreds of miles apart in the wilds of Alaska, were rescued after being discovered “visibly emaciated” and “perilously malnourished.” Unable to be released back into the wild, the duo’s future was uncertain — until they were taken in by the San Francisco Zoo in August.
The Oakland Zoo also took in baby animals in need this year: Two orphan mountain lion cubs discovered in Orange County found a permanent home at the East Bay zoo, and will soon have a 56-acre space when the zoo’s California Trail expansion opens in June 2018.
A spate of natural disasters took a toll not just on people, but on displaced animals, as well. When the hurricane hit Houston, 54 dogs and 15 cats, adorably nicknamed “Stormtroopers,” were flown from the Texas city into Oakland Airport on a private jet, where five local rescue organizations helped them find new homes.
But dogs and cats weren’t the only casualties of the hurricanes. San Rafael-based urban wildlife rescue group WildCare flew to Houston and worked in shifts to help dozens of squirrels, turtles, opossums and even a baby alligator who’d been affected by the storms.
The fires in Santa Rosa displaced thousands during mandatory evacuations, but many fleeing the flames had to leave their koi fish behind. Sonoma County Animal Services held more than 130 koi fish that were called in from eight homes until they were reunited with their owners.
And after the horrible fires in Santa Rosa, everybody in the Bay Area was feeling a little sensitive about fire safety and smoke inhalation. A board member of the SF SPCA donated 70 snout-shaped Wag’N 02 Fur Life oxygen masks to the San Francisco Fire Department to assist any canine victims of fires.
Marine mammals also made frequent appearances in SF Weekly‘s animal beat, with Yankeedoodle the malnourished sea otter making the news after being released back into the wild in October. The little dude spent all summer vacationing at the Marine Mammal Center in Marin after he was found suffering from toxoplasmosis.
And in a bizarre move, San Francisco Animal Care and Control took in a wild boar last month that was adopted by a family as a baby when they stumbled across it near Mt. Shasta. They named it Spirit, and all was lovely — until it grew up. The boar was relocated to Windswept Ranch, a facility for rescued animals and petting zoo.
Another odd animal in need of a home was a “lonely but friendly” pygmy goat named Dottie at the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA. After the media blasted her story across news stations and papers in the Bay Area, she was adopted and taken to a farm in Modesto.
Last but certainly not least: BART commuters had an unusual reason for a delay back in September, when a brown pit bull mix ran along the tracks, snarling train traffic for more than an hour before he was caught. He was taken to the Oakland Animal Shelter, and found a forever home a few weeks later.