Top Animal Stories of 2011

They survived falls, escaped from zoos, started Twitter accounts and slept in backyard furniture. These are the top tri-state animal stories of 2011, from the Bronx Zoo cobra to Patrick the miracle pitbull.

17 photos
Jeff Forde
Sure, rats have always hung around the subway, but this year they seemed emboldened. The viral video of a rat climbing on the face of a sleeping passenger will haunt riders long into 2012.
A hybrid wolf-dog was picked up by animal care workers in Brooklyn. The dog had a collar, so it was not considered a wild animal, but it is illegal to own a wolf hybrid in New York City.
Copper, a 9-month-old kitty, shocked vets and defied the odds when she fell 12 stories from an Upper West Side window -- and ended up with only a broken paw.
This poor critter got its head stuck inside a jar of peanut butter while perched on a utility pole on Long Island in March, stumping local police and fire departments on how to get it down. LIPA eventually came and freed the animal -- nicknamed "Skippy" by those watching -- from the pole and the jar. Skippy skipped his way to freedom.
A mountain lion came from the Black Hills of South Dakota and traveled through Minnesota and Wisconsin before eventually ending up in southern Connecticut. It was tracked by DNA from its hair and droppings, and officials said the 1,500-mile journey was the longest ever recorded for a land mammal. The "St. Croix Cougar's" long journey ended when it was struck and killed by a car on Route 15 in Connecticut.
Daniel the mixed-breed beagle miraculously survived an Alabama dog pound's gas chamber, and later was brought to New Jersey, where he now has a permanent home.
This tiny kitten survived a harrowing ordeal after being tossed from a moving car on the Verrazano Bridge. It later earned a new name -- Verrazano -- and a high-profile owner when Whoopi Goldberg adopted the gray kitty.
Coffee the panhandling pooch has been seen outside most Mets home games at Citi Field dressed in a hat, sunglasses, and holding a pipe in its mouth. The ASPCA investigated and said the dog was not being abused, despite the pleas from animal activists who said he was.
Not every cow wants to end up on a bun, but one cow did something about it. This cow escaped from a slaughterhouse in Queens, running through traffic on busy Liberty Avenue, before being captured at nearby York College.
NBC 5 News
Patrick the pitbull was rescued after he was starved and discarded down a trash chute. The pooch's sad story has a happy ending, though -- he is recovering well and his caretakers expect he will eventually be adopted.
Nobody knows for sure how Willow the cat went missing in Colorado and was found five years later in New York. But the cat's family was happy to have her back.
Jack the cat disappeared at JFK Airport in August as his owner boarded a flight for San Francisco. Two months later, he was found alive after falling through the ceiling of the airport's customs area. This cat's miraculous story captured the hearts of viewers in our area, but sadly the injuries sustained while at the airport were too much for the Norwegian forest cat. Jack died in November after being transported to a veterinary specialist facility in Manhattan.
Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society
An 18-pound lobster once destined for the table was spared back in August and now lives in a new, safe home at the New York Aquarium. The lobster is the largest of its species ever to live at the New York Aquarium.
We're not sure who runs security at the Bronx Zoo, but this peahen (female peacock) escaped from the zoo and landed a few blocks away in nearby Morris Park in May. She was later returned, but not after she had her fun in the boogie down.
How this snake got so good at ssssocial media, we'll never know. The 24-inch cobra disappeared from the Bronx Zoo Reptile house and was found there days later -- but not before it accumulated thousands of Twitter followers as an anonymous tweeter imagined the snake slithering its way around the city. The zoo was able to spin the story in its favor, though, organizing a contest to name the snake (the public voted on Mia.)
Life's hard for black bears in New Jersey. They have to worry about getting shot by hunters or where they'll hibernate for the winter. Why shouldn't they play in a hammock in someone's backyard, like these bears did?
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