2021

Aww-mazing Animal Stories From San Diego That Wowed You in 2021

From the stories that had you say, "aww" to those who made you think, "ooh," here are several animal encounters that captivated the Internet in 2021

The San Diego Humane Society's Ramona Wildlife Center has taken in four bear cubs -- one which was found with burns on its paws and triplets that were orphaned.
San Diego Humane Society

SD Zoo Gorillas Test Positive for COVID-19 (January)

Gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is recovering following the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in several troop members earlier this month.

A handful of gorillas from the troop at the San Diego Zoo tested positive for COVID-19 after exhibiting symptoms of the disease like coughing, congestion, lethargy and nasal discharge. Three of the eight gorillas at the zoo tested positive for the virus on Jan. 11 but veterinarians reported they were all eating, drinking and interacting well.

The discovery led to wildlife officials vaccinating a group of apes at the zoo against COVID-19 just a couple of months later to prevent another outbreak.

Pregnant Bobcat Treated for Injuries After Possibly Being Hit by Car (January)

An undated image of the expectant bobcat that was rescued and treated at the San Diego Humane Society Ramona Wildlife Center.
San Diego Humane Society
An undated image of the expectant bobcat that was rescued and treated at the San Diego Humane Society Ramona Wildlife Center.

Three lives were saved when the San Diego Humane Society Ramona Wildlife Center rehabilitated a pregnant bobcat after she was likely struck by a car in Rancho Bernardo. The expectant mother was found injured on the median of Bernardo Center Road, suffering from a fractured jaw.

Veterinarians treated the bobcat for weeks by stabilizing her jaw with wiring and sutures until they deemed her well enough to be released. Thanks to the dedicated care from wildlife staff, the young feline and her two unborn kittens were just fine.

Mama Dog Gives Birth to Puppies Under Van on Rainy Day (March)

A stray dog and her newborn puppies were rescued from the San Diego Humane Society on Thursday, March 25, 2021 after they were found under a van in Valencia Park.
San Diego Humane Society
A stray dog and her newborn puppies were rescued from the San Diego Humane Society on Thursday, March 25, 2021 after they were found under a van in Valencia Park.

It’s a story that melted the hearts of social media users and one that all mothers could resonate with – this mama dog was in labor on a cold, rainy day and with nowhere else to go, she took refuge under a van to give birth to her pups.

The new mother and her newborn puppies were rescued by the San Diego Humane Society after they got word of the touching story. Once the pups were old enough, they were placed for adoption and all found new families.

Man With Prosthetic Leg Adopts Shih Tzu With Amputated Legs (June)

Dog sits in the grass with pink prosthetic legs
Joe Little, NBC 7
Chloe doesn't seem to care one bit that her hind legs are prosthetics.

As if pet adoption stories aren’t inspiring enough, one San Diego family’s heartwarming “foster failure” truly captured the spirit of pet rescues.

Chloe the Shih Tzu is now a happy pup in a loving home, but that wasn’t always the case. Prior to her adoption by the Hunter family, her old owner wrapped bandages so tightly around her back legs that it cut off her blood flow. She required surgery upon her arrival at the San Diego Humane Society and was given prosthetic legs. Then, she was placed in a household where one family member understood Chloe completely and created an immediate bond because he, himself, has a prosthetic leg.

San Diegans Rescue 36-Year-Old Pet During Caldor Fire (September)

This handsome parakeet named Pepe was rescued by San Diego Humane Society Officers Joy Ollinger and Sandra Anderson after he was left behind during Caldor Fire evacuations.
San Diego Humane Society
This handsome parakeet named Pepe was rescued by San Diego Humane Society Officers Joy Ollinger and Sandra Anderson after he was left behind during Caldor Fire evacuations.

The relentless Caldor Fire wreaked havoc in South Lake Tahoe as it consumed thousands of square footage of the Northern California region in September and October. To help animals in need, two Humane Law Enforcement Officers from San Diego traveled north.

Among the dozens of animals they helped rescue and secure was a 36-year-old parakeet named Pepe. The stunning bird was left behind after his owners were ordered to vacate due to the fire. Thankfully, the San Diegans were able to gain access to Pepe and get him reunited with his loved ones.

Four Orphaned Bear Cubs Receive Care at Ramona Wildlife Center (September)

The San Diego Humane Society's Ramona Wildlife Center has taken in four bear cubs -- one which was found with burns on its paws and triplets that were orphaned.
San Diego Humane Society
The San Diego Humane Society's Ramona Wildlife Center has taken in four bear cubs -- one which was found with burns on its paws and triplets that were orphaned.

Speaking of Northern California wildfires, the enormous Dixie Fire displaced hundreds of residents and disrupted natural wildlife in its path. After scorching through several counties, a 7-month-old cub found itself alone and approaching firefighters in the region. The lonesome bear had minor burns to its paws and eventually was taken to the San Diego Humane Society’s Ramona Wildlife Center for rehabilitation.

Soon after, triplet bears who sadly were found orphaned in Mariposa County were also taken to the Ramona Wildlife Center for much-needed care. Around late September, the remarkable facility was in the care of four cubs at once. There, the cubs learned how to hone their natural skills and were nourished back to full health.

Cancer-Free Chihuahua Celebrated After Last Round of Chemo (November)

3-year-old chihuahua Eric overcame adversary and beat cancer after 17 rounds of weekly chemotherapy.
San Diego Humane Society
3-year-old chihuahua Eric overcame adversary and beat cancer after 17 rounds of weekly chemotherapy.

Party hats, a puppy-friendly cake and applause all around was how the San Diego Humane Society celebrated one special chihuahua’s successful battle against cancer. Eric, the 3-year-old pooch, overcame the illness after 17 rounds of chemotherapy and four months of veterinary care.

The pooch arrived at the animal shelter as a stray in rough shape. He was covered in ticks, had blood on his paws and was diagnosed with a cancer tumor known as Transmissible Venereal Tumor (TVT ) and a tickborne disease called Ehrlichiosis. He was one tough pup and after overcoming adversary, was eligible to find his fur-ever family.

Coyote Rescued After Being Stuck in Car's Bumper (November)

San Diego Humane Society
A female coyote that was found lodged in the bumper of a car was freed and rescued after weeks of care.

A female coyote was released back into the wild after she was hit by a car and found stuck in the forward bumper of a car parked at a San Marcos supermarket. A passerby made the gut-wrenching discovery and called the San Diego Humane Society for help.

Thankfully, the coyote survived the impact and after she was freed from the car’s bumper, was taken to the Ramona Wildlife Center for treatment. There, she received care for a severely injured paw and for the shock she endured. After nearly three weeks of successful rehabilitation, she was freed back to her natural habitat.


Deep-Sea Creature Washes Ashore Black's Beach (November)

Fooballfish on sand
Jay Beiler
Fooballfish on sand

San Diegans who took a stroll at Black’s Beach in late November were in for quite a shock when they spotted a Pacific footballfish washed ashore. You may recognize the deep-sea anglerfish since it was made famous for its intimidating appearance in “Finding Nemo.”

One local who snapped images of the creature described it as “the stuff of nightmares.” The spooky-looking fish has jagged, sharp teeth and a little bioluminescent light on top of its head that acts as a lure.

Paddleboarders Hang Out With Giant Sunfish (December)

Matt Wheaton, poses for a photo with an ocean sunfish known as a "Mola mola," off the coast of Laguna Beach on Dec. 2, 2021.
Rich German
Matt Wheaton, poses for a photo with an ocean sunfish known as a "Mola mola," off the coast of Laguna Beach on Dec. 2, 2021.

OK, OK, this was just a county north of San Diego but this encounter is too neat not to place on this list. A couple of paddleboarders made their regular trek in Laguna Beach when they came across an enormous “Mola mola,” which is also known as an ocean sunfish.

Rich German said he and his buddy hung around the fish for about half an hour as the Mola mola glided along the surface of the water, seemingly unbothered by the pair of humans. The sunfish was estimated to have been 9 to 10 feet long.

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