Dead critters honored as 2015 newsmakers

When I was teaching journalism, I’d tell my students that the best stories were about sex, death or animals.

“Combine any two, or all three, and you have a winner.”

Well, my former employer, the Canadian Press, has done its best in a top-10 of Canadian animal stories for 2015.

Cecil the Lion did not make the list because he was not Canadian, though a creative writer could cite the beast once devoured a dozen Tim Hortons doughnuts fed to him by a dentist from Winnipeg.

As we know, nationality is an important factor in news judgment. Who can forget the headline: Canadian survives Indian Ocean tsunami that kills 227,898.

Sometimes, just visiting can do it: James Earl Ray, who once stayed in Toronto, dies at the age of 70.

Ascribing citizenship to critters is accordingly consistent with standard editorial practices.

Thus, courtesy of CP, “here are this year’s Canadian animal newsmakers:”

  1.    “A brutal battle began late last year among the baboons at the Toronto Zoo that led to severe injuries and the temporary closure of the exhibit. The violence continued for months as two female baboons fought for the throne left vacant by the death of the dominant female, Betty.”

The combatants, Molly and Putsie, eventually declared a truce and raised the ISIS flag together.

  1. “Beth-Ann Colebourne, the ‘crazy cat lady whisperer,’ rose to Internet fame after she uploaded a video to YouTube that showed her kitty-calling a lynx in March. She noticed the wild cat outside her nail salon in Terrace Bay, Ont., and followed it as it prowled around the strip mall. Highlights of her chat with the cat include: ‘What’s up buddy, what are you doing?’ ‘Hey, lynx!’ and ‘Kitty, kitty, kitty.’”

The lynx replied, “Cat videos on the Internet are for intellectual pygmies” and “strip malls are bourgeois” before departing.

  1. A death-defying raccoon climbed 58 storeys up a crane ladder in downtown Toronto in April. Once perched high above the city, the crane operator, Rob MacFarlane, snapped the image that went viral online.”

Both MacFarlane and the raccoon succumbed to the virus.

  1. “A peacock flew the coop from a downtown Toronto zoo in May, escaping capture for days before finally returning home after a week on the lam.”

The peacock was spotted trying to mate with a mannequin at a Bloor Street haute couture shop.

  1. “A deer wormed its way into the hearts of Vancouverites during the summer as it became friendly with people and cruised the streets looking for food and affection … In September the Downtown Deer died after being hit by two cars. The city mourned.”

Hundreds filled Christ Church Cathedral for the funeral service, while tens of thousands gathered at English Bay where the deer’s ashes were scattered amid the roaches on the beach.

  1. “Another dead Canadian animal caught the country’s attention in 2015, this one a member of Toronto’s massive raccoon brigade. The body of the fallen masked critter, cause of death unknown, lay on a downtown sidewalk in July for almost 12 hours, prompting three co-workers to set up a makeshift shrine with a card placed beside the belly-up beast that read: ‘Hang in there.’ Another co-worker laid a rose beside Conrad, as he was soon dubbed.”

Mr. Black was not amused.

  1. “The public reacted with outrage in the summer after police shot and killed a black bear found in a backyard in Newmarket, Ont. York Regional police said they had no choice when the black bear came down from a tree, so they fired away — all of it was captured by a circling news chopper.”

A birder correctly identified the whirlybird as a turkey vulture.

  1. A panda gave birth to two cubs in mid-October at the Toronto Zoo. The zoo set up a neonatal unit borrowed from a hospital to help the cubs survive, swapping them between the mother’s teat and the incubator every hour in the early days to help with their survival.”

TV news reports issued a warning concerning adult content and smudged the offending teats.

  1. A Nicaraguan dog had snout-saving surgery in Ottawa … Tyson, a beagle mix from a farm in the jungles in Nicaragua, suffered a severe gash after a machete accident left a gaping slash in his snout.”

The dog was granted permanent resident status after passing a government-certified machete safety course.

  1. A police officer repeatedly ran over a dog with his cruiser in Collingwood, Ont., in the fall after receiving a call about a coyote in the area. The disturbing scene was captured on video and shows the officer backing his car down the street to take a longer run at the dog. The dog still wasn’t dead, so the officer got out of his cruiser and shot and killed it.”

Police said the alleged coyote reached for a weapon.

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