Top animal stories of 2020: Here are some of the best moments, from brazen bears to courageous dogs

Florida man saves dog from alligator. Footage courtesy of Florida Wildlife Federation/ fStop Foundation.

Despite the global coronavirus pandemic, animals have kept on being – well, animals.

Animal stories that have gone viral this year have included brazen bears, courageous dogs, thieving raccoons and the rare birth of a giant panda cub.


Here are some of the year’s most noteworthy animal stories:

Black bear sniffs woman’s hair on a hiking trail in Mexico

A young, 212-pound black bear at Chipinque Ecological Park in San Pedro Garza Garcia, Mexico, went viral after being captured on video sniffing a hiker’s hair. The video, which has been viewed millions of times, shows the woman attempting to stay still until the bear loses interest.

The hiker, who took a selfie with the bear, was praised for staying calm during the incident.

Weeks later, the bear was caught and castrated amid concerns about its overfamiliarity with people, sparking outrage on social media.

Florida man saves dog from jaws of an alligator


Richard Wilbanks, 74, went viral after a video showed him jump into a pond to pull his 3-month-old puppy, Gunner, out of the jaws of a hungry alligator – without even dropping his cigar.

"We were just out for a Sunday morning stroll, and walking by the edge of the pond," Wilbanks told Fox News. "All of a sudden an alligator came out from under the water and grabbed hold of Gunner and was heading back in the water and swimming off with him.

"I just jumped in and got hold of the alligator and drug him up, drug him up to the bank, and got Gunner out."

For his fight and tenacity, the pup was later deputized by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

Raccoons break into California bank

Two raccoons created a stir after “breaking into” a bank in Redwood City. The raccoons were thought to have stealthily gained access to the bank via its roof.

The raccoons were found inside the bank in Redwood City, Calif.
(Courtesy of Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA)

A man using an ATM spotted the raccoon intruders inside the bank. Initially, he thought that he was seeing a stuffed animal on a desk, but then he saw the animal move.

The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA said its rescue staff was called to the bank and after about 10 minutes were able to safely shoo the animals outside.

The raccoons were not harmed during the incident.
(Courtesy of Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA)

“Thankfully the raccoons were not injured during their morning escapade, and to our knowledge, they didn’t abscond with any money,” the organization said.

Giant panda gives birth to a new cub, zoo lets public vote on name

Panda Mei Xiang gave birth to the male cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in August.

Pandas have been notoriously difficult for zoos to breed in captivity. Mei Xiang was impregnated with artificial insemination.

The 12-week-old male cub was born in August to its mother, Mei Xiang.
(Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute)

In November, the zoo allowed the public to vote on a name for the new cub.

Out of four Mandarin Chinese names, officials revealed the name that garnered the most votes was Little Miracle – or Xiao Qi ji.

Big cats at zoos test positive for coronavirus

This year wasn’t all fun and games for animals.

Worldwide, there have been only two known outbreaks of coronavirus among felines at zoos.


The first outbreak happened in April at the Bronx Zoo in New York, where four lions and three tigers tested positive. All those animals have since recovered.

The second outbreak was reported in early December at the Barcelona Zoo in Spain. Four lions, three 16-year-old females, named Zala, Nima and Run Run, and a 4-year-old male, named Kiumbe, all tested positive in November. Authorities are investigating how the lions became infected.

Two staff members also tested positive for the virus following the outbreak among the lions, the zoo said, but did not mention how they became infected.

Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this report.