My Top 5 Animal Stories of 2011

photo by Tom and Carter Grotta

There were many choices, but here are my top 5 animal story pics, plus 3 runners up:

The Penguin that Took a Wrong Turn
An emperor penguin, nicknamed Happy Feet, showed up in New Zealand this June — about 2,500 miles away from his home in Antarctica. The chick was clearly lost, trying to eat wet sand instead of snow for hydration. Happy Feet was taken to the Wellington Zoo, where vets removed several pounds of sand from his stomach and nursed him back to health. He was released to the wild in September.

The Snake that Staged an Escape
For six days in March, Mia, an Egyptian cobra, went missing from the reptile house at the Bronx Zoo. While the reptile house remained closed, nearly 200,000 people followed her escapades, thanks to her Twitter account Since her return, Mia’s still chatting it up. In November she tweeted: “Anyone know of a great Cyber Monday deal on glass cutters? Asking for a friend.”

photo by LP

The Bear that Came to Dinner
I love visiting one of my owner’s parents in New Jersey. There are sheep grazing on one side of their property; beagles that greet me on the other and deer, fox and raccoon smells in between. Happily, what I have never met there is a bear — but one showed up on their birdfeeder web cam this fall — helping itself to a birdfeed buffet.

Harbor, the World-Record-Winning Dog
The World Records Academy confirms that Harbor, a coonhound who lives in Colorado, has the longest ears of any living dog. His left ear is 12.25 and his right ear is 13.75 inches. His owner says he was big-eared from birth and used to trip on his ears as a pup — but now, they are his claim to fame.

Monkeyshines at the San Francisco Zoo
A happy ending to the year — Banana Sam, a popular squirrel monkey, was returned to the San Francisco Zoo on New Year’s Eve, two days after thieves cut through a gate and made holes in the mesh surrounding the monkey exhibit. The 17-year-old monkey, a senior citizen of squirrel monkeys whose lifespans are around 20 years, was found by a bystander in a clump of bushes just a mile from the zoo, hungry and thirsty but otherwise healthy.

Runners Up:
The SEAL dogs who raided Osama Bin Laden’s compound; Willow, the cat who was reunited with her family in New York after going missing in Colorado five years before :–year-odyssey/#.TwQ6b5jLIVg; and the three Decorah eaglets that 200 million people saw hatch in April

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