Top Animal Stories of 2012

From alligators to lost peacocks, loose zebras, screeching seagulls and one miraculous pit bull, here are the top local animal stories of 2012.

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Patrick the Pit Bull Makes a Miracle Comeback: Patrick the pit bull has come a long way from the 19-pound shell of a dog he was when he was found emaciated in a Newark trash chute March 16, 2011. Now a healthy 51 pounds, the dog that gained nationwide attention and sparked a movement against animal cruelty is happy in his Monmouth County home. His saga became a national story as concerned dog lovers everywhere rallied around the abandoned pup.
Zebra, Pony Run Loose on Staten Island: A wild scene unfolded on Staten Island Nov. 28 when a zebra and a pony were spotted running along a busy roadway after they apparently escaped from a Christmas tree seller who had used them as business attractions. The animals were eventually returned to the property, but part of the crazy incident was captured on video.
Alligator Outbreak on Long Island: Four alligators turned up abandoned on Long Island in one October week, sparking concern about an apparent epidemic. Authorities said they were probably pets abandoned by naive or uneducated owners. One group blamed the Internet for the outbreak, saying certain sites made it easy to purchase alligators even though they're illegal to own in New York.
NBC 4 New York
Deer Rescued from Sea as Sandy Approaches: A deer got stuck in the wild surf at a Monmouth County beach in New Jersey as Hurricane Sandy loomed Oct. 28, its presence threatening with dark skies and whipping winds. NBC 4 New York's cameras were at Monmouth Beach when the deer was spotted attempting to navigate the breaking surf. Animal Control and Humane Society responded and tranquilized the deer, which was found with a broken leg. ACHS took it into its care in hopes of nursing it back to health.
NBC 4 New York/Facebook/AP
Man Leaps into Bronx Zoo Tiger Den: A 25-year-old real estate agent leaped from an elevated train into the den of a tiger at the Bronx Zoo Sept. 21. The 400-pound tiger mauled him, dragging him around by his foot, but zoo workers managed to rescue him after he'd been in the enclosure for 10 minutes. David Villalobos jumped into the den because he "wanted to be one with the tiger." He was charged with misdemeanor trespassing. The tiger did not face charges and continued its life in the exhibit.
Wounded Combat Dog Rejoins NY Marine: A combat dog was reunited in March with the ex-Marine handler with whom it was wounded in Iraq. Former Cpl. Megan Leavey, of Rockland County, was injured with the dog, known as Sgt. Rex, in 2006 while trying to disarm an explosive. They convalesced together. Rex is credited with saving lives and uncovering explosives that saved more. He died Dec. 22 at the age of 11.
30-Pound Turtle Caught Off Brooklyn Pier: A city angler caught a 30-pound turtle off a pier in Canarsie in August. Officials said the reptile was a baby loggerhead turtle that could grow to be 300 pounds. A silver tag on its flipper said National Park Service of Florida. Marine biologists removed the fisherman's hook and released the reptile back into the wild.
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Loose Puppy Causes Delays at LaGuardia: A puppy escaped from its crate and ran loose on a taxiway at LaGuardia Airport April 25, forcing the Port Authority to shut down the tarmac and delay flights until the pup was corralled and brought back to safety. The 30-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, named Byrdie, got loose while being loaded into a cage on a Delta flight headed to Memphis. It took a little coaxing, but she was rounded up a short while later.
Baby Walrus Moves to Brooklyn: A 234-pound baby walrus joined the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn in October. The 15-week-old mammal, named Mitik, was rescued from the ocean off Alaska in July. Mitik was found by a hunting vessel several miles offshore. Initially, he suffered from bladder problems and was unable to take a bottle. The Alaska Sea Life Center says he's now putting on a pound a day.
Peacock Escapes from Queens High School: Residents in Kew Gardens welcomed a temporary resident to their neighborhood in August -- a peacock that apparently escaped from a nearby high school's menagerie. The colorful bird was spotted hanging out on front lawns and on rooftops and eluding animal care and control officials, but it was eventually caught.
Seagulls Overtake NJ Neighborhood Thousands of seagulls took over the rooftops of a New Jersey townhouse development in January, infuriating residents and forcing children to carry umbrellas on sunny days to protect against droppings. Tinton Falls Mayor Michael Skudera said an experiment using falcons at the landfill might have scared the seagulls to move less than a quarter of a mile away to the development, where residents screeched about their new unwelcome neighbors.
Queens Beached Whale Dies: A 60-foot finback whale was found beached in Queens on Dec. 26. The whale was found stranded on the bay side of Breezy Point. It was alive but severely emaciated. Authorities planned to conduct a necropsy to determine why the endangered whale died.
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