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Top Colorado Animal Stories Of 2013

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DENVER (CBS4) – Elk, bear, moose, deer, coyotes, horses, dogs and even a rhinoceros make the list for top animal stories in Colorado in 2013.

Boulder Police Officer Sam Carter poses with the elk he shot with his service gun while on duty. (credit: CBS)

Boulder Police Officer Sam Carter poses with the elk he shot with his service gun while on duty. (credit: CBS)

Samson The Elk

On Jan. 1, two Boulder police officers shot and killed Samson the Elk on the streets of Boulder. The elk was well known to the neighbors and it was their questions that launched the investigation.

That investigation revealed the officers had texted each other about the location of the elk and took trophy pictures.

The residents held a candlelight vigil for the elk and even raised money for a memorial.

Both officers resigned from the police department after being charged. Brent Curnow took a plea deal that allowed him to avoid jail time and a felony conviction. The trial for Sam Carter is set for January 2014.

Wildlife Overpass To Be Built In Grand County

Grand County will become the first county in Colorado to get a wildlife overpass after residents set up a fundraising campaign in May to help pay for the bridge. It took just two months to raise nearly $10 million (20 percent of the project).

It will allow moose to safely cross over Highway 9. There has been nearly one death a year on a 10-mile stretch of the highway in Grand County, most from collisions with wildlife.

“Thanks to cooperation between Grand County, Summit County, Town of Silverthorne, Kremling,” said Citizens for a Safer Highway 9 spokesman Mike Ritschard. “There will be five underpasses and two overpasses. Shoulders will be put on for bicycles and game fencing to keep animals off the highway.”

So, A Bear Walks Into A Bar

Estes Park is a popular tourist spot all summer long, in part because of how close humans and wildlife can get. Bear sightings are becoming increasingly common but in July, one bear strolled into a bar.

The bear’s evening apparently started with an unsuccessful attempt at dumpster diving for dinner. That’s when he headed into Lonnigan’s Bar.

“I guess nothing seemed palpable so he just kept going,” said Estes Park resident Daniel Lyell. “He didn’t think too long before he started walking into the bar.”

Lyell took pictures and tried to warn customers in the bar about the bear, but they were unfazed.

Surveillance video also caught the bear on camera. It eventually wandered away, without ever opening a tab.

The Dog, The Polar Bear & The Pregnancy Test

It’s very difficult to determine if polar bears are pregnant, but scientists at the Cleveland Zoo are training a beagle named Elvis to sniff droppings to determine if a polar bear is pregnant.

The Denver Zoo sent droppings from Cranbeary to Elvis for testing in November. She was one of 17 polar bears who mated in the spring.

Unfortunately, Elvis couldn’t sniff out any signs of pregnancy, and he’s right 95 percent of the time.

Even though Cranbeary was showing denning behavior in November, the zookeepers say it’s very unlikely she’s pregnant. Most polar bear cubs are born around Thanksgiving.

Black Forest Horse

Thomas Boyle was one of thousands forced to flee his home during the Black Forest Fire, leaving behind his horse, Banjo. When he returned, Banjo wasn’t in the barn.

Boyle searched high and low for his but it was finally when he looked online he saw Banjo.

A neighbor found Banjo wandering near a burning pasture and took him home. Banjo had some burns but made it back to his home and his pal, Thomas.

A deer was rescued from an icy lake in Golden in January. (credit: CBS)

A deer was rescued from an icy lake in Golden in January. (credit: CBS)

Deer Ice Rescue

When a frightened deer ended up on an ice-coated lake in Golden, employees from Coors Brewery teamed up with wildlife officers to bring him to safety.

They had to lasso the animal then drag it across the ice. Luckily it did not fall through.

Niwot Coyote Attack

On Oct. 14, Andrew Dickehage was walking to work along 75th Avenue in Niwot at 5 p.m. when he heard noises in bushes. When he turned around, a coyote lunged at him.

The man fought to protect his neck while he swung his flashlight at what ended up being three coyotes on the attack. After several minutes, the animals finally left. Dickehage sustained injuries to his arms, neck and face.

Dickehage said he’s thankful it happened to him rather than a child or elderly person because the attack could have resulted in much more serious injuries or even death.

Boulder Coyote Hazing

In January, Boulder launched a plan to reduce the number of human-coyote confrontations by hazing the animals.

The decision came after seven encounters in about the space of three weeks inside the city limits.

The hazing was mostly done along a two mile stretch of the Boulder Creek Path that’s east of Foothills Parkway. It crosses Arapahoe Avenue and Pearl Street to the north. The seven incidents all happened in that area.

Edelweiss Restaurant photo(credit: Edelweiss Restaurant)

Clever Bear Moves Dumpster Off Camera

In Colorado Springs, a bear found the perfect spot for a late night snack. This bear had a taste for the German cuisine at the Edelweiss Restaurant.

A surveillance camera caught the bear actually wheeled the dumpster out of the view of the camera several nights. Once it was off-screen, the bear used a curb to tip the dumpster and check out the contents.

Eventually the restaurant owner got some help from wildlife officials in taking steps to change the bear’s behavior.

The bear did stop bothering the dumpster after encountering wooden planks with nails pointing up.

Rhino Bites Woman

For years, the Denver Zoo has allowed VIP visitors to hand feed Mshindi the black rhinoceros. This year, for one visitor the experience ended with a trip to the hospital after Mshindi bit her hand.

“Mshindi is not in trouble. We don’t believe that it was aggressive. We believe this was an accident,” Brian Aucone, the Denver Zoo’s vice president for animal care, told CBS4 in August.

Mshindi was taken off the exhibit for a time but quickly returned. The hand feeding program is still suspended at the end of the year as the zoo review the program. It may re-start in the spring.

Moose Attacks in Grand Lake & Boulder

Two women had violent encounters with moose over the summer, one in Boulder County, the other in Grand Lake.

One woman was hiking with her dogs on Middle St. Vrain Trail near Boulder when she encountered a moose with two calves. The mother moose knocked her to the ground and kicked her. She was checked out at Longmont United Hospital.

Wildlife officers had to put two moose down after a woman was trampled near her home in Grand Lake. Once again, the victim was walking her dog and encountered a cow moose and her calf.

Officers say both incidents are reminders are moose see dogs as natural enemies.

Horse Rescue

North Metro Fire Department was called into action when Rocket the horse fell into an eight foot concrete well. The horse was partially submerged but Rocket’s head was above water and ended up spending the night stranded.

But as the rescue unfolded, Rocket flipped over and actually had to be lifted out of the well by his feet. Fortunately, his injuries were not severe.

Rocket’s owner says the horse was in unfamiliar territory when he fell into the well.

Flooded Animals Rescue

The historic September floods not only damaged businesses, homes, and roads, it left hundreds of livestock animals stranded.

As images from Copter4 revealed the location of stranded horses and cattle, ranchers and families in Weld County joined forces to rescue their livelihood.

Neighbors called each other to help locate animals and to help get them to higher ground until owners could reach them by boat.

- Written for CBSDenver.com by Raetta Holdman

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