Abbey House Veterinary Hospital via Facebook
Abbey House Veterinary Hospital via Facebook

13 Heartwarming Animal Rescues

Abbey House Veterinary Hospital via Facebook
Abbey House Veterinary Hospital via Facebook

Whether they're on the losing end against an act of nature or the cruelty of human infrastructure, animals can become trapped just about anywhere. Thankfully, though, there are people willing to help them out, even if that means putting themselves at risk in the process. Here are the heartwarming stories of 13 very different animals being rescued from various predicaments in just the past year.


About a month ago, a leopard fell into a 60-foot well in the village of Pimpalgaon Siddhanath, near Pune in India. Although the leopard was exhausted from treading water for an extended period of time, it was still too dangerous to simply go down and pluck out of the well. Thankfully, the organization Wildlife SOS responded, led by veterinarian Dr. Ajay. First, they threw in a raft made from sticks tied together so the leopard could hold on and float while they decided what to do next. And how do you trap a cat at a distance? Use a box! Even big cats can’t resist a box, so they lowered a box with a trap door down, and the leopard took the bait. After ascertaining the leopard was in decent health, it was released into the wild.


Just a couple of weeks ago, Polish wildlife photographer Krzystof Chomicz spotted a white-tailed eagle floundering in the muddy coastal flats near Swinoujscie, Poland. The bird was pretty far out, but Chomicz ventured out to it, with a safety rope attached while being monitored by local firefighters. The frightened young bird, who might have just been learning to fly, pecked and scratched Chomicz as he carried it back to shore. A wildlife rehabilitation center named the eagle Icarus and nursed it back to health. Icarus has since been sent on to a wildlife refuge in Szczecin.


In July 2016, a bear was spotted near Glenwood Springs, Colorado with its head caught in a gallon-sized plastic cheese-puff container. Local wildlife officials said they received numerous reports of the bear during the previous days, but it wouldn’t stay in one place long enough to be caught. Local bed-and-breakfast owner Jim Hawkins saw the bear more than once, and when he crossed paths with the 2-year-old bear again, he lassoed it with a rope. He and the bear wrestled for a while, before the tired and thirsty animal gave up and climbed a tree. Hawkins tied off the rope so the bear could not leave, and called wildlife authorities. Carbondale District Wildlife Officer John Groves came with a tranquilizer gun, and the men snipped the plastic container off the 100-pound bear’s head before Groves administered an antidote. The bear awoke and ran away, but it is expected to be fine. Hawkins, however, required stitches for the bear claw gashes on his arm.


We don’t have a lot of information about this rescue, but video shows that a group of people in Kazakstan pulled together to retrieve a dog from a flooded storm canal. A human chain of five guys were pulled up by even more at the top to get the dog out of the floodwaters sluicing down the steep concrete canal.


Just a couple of weeks ago, a raccoon was found hanging from its neck in a storm drain grate in Northampton, Massachusetts, just outside the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Northampton Police responded and removed the grate, giving the raccoon some relief from supporting his own weight with his neck. An animal control officer arrived and used cooking oil to lubricate the raccoon’s head and wiggle it out of the grate.

A similar story involved a neighborhood cat in Winchendon, Massachusetts, in July. In that incident, police officers used liquid soap to free the cat.


The Titirangi Volunteer Fire Brigade in Auckland, New Zealand responded to a case of trapped ducklings in the suburb of Green Bay on May 21. The mother duck stood by, quacking anxiously as firefighter Alex Justice was lowered into the drain head first, while his legs were held by other firefighters. As he pulled the ducklings up one by one, the crew corralled them in a traffic cone to keep them out of the busy road. When they were all returned to the mother duck, she either quacked her thanks to the rescuers or else gave her children a lecture—we’re not sure. The fire brigade was later honored with an award from PETA for their efforts.


This past May, a goose came up to a police car in Cincinnati, Ohio, and started tapping at the door with her beak. After Sergeant James Givens and Specialist Cecilia Charron noticed the goose continuing to look at them while she was walking away, they decided to follow her. The goose led them to a gosling that had become tangled in a string that was tied to a Mothers Day balloon among the litter. The officers called the SPCA, but it would be a while before they could come. So Charron took matters into her own hands and untangled the baby bird while Givens recorded the rescue on his phone. The mother goose stood by patiently until the gosling was freed. The whole scene was unusual—Canadian geese are normally aggressive around humans, even when they don’t have goslings to protect.


A construction crew near Tacoma, Washington, arrived at their work site one day in March and discovered not one, but two young black-tailed deer had fallen into a mud pit and couldn’t get themselves out. They used an excavator to gently scoop the terrified deer from the mud and, being careful not to lift the bucket too high, placed them on firmer ground. Bill Davis captured video of the incident. The second deer gave the crew a scare because she took longer to get to her feet. You can see the rescue of the second deer on video as well.


Giannis Goulas via YouTube

This goat was just doing his goaty thing near Tempi, Greece, and the next thing he knows, he’s hanging from an overhead cable by his horns. Who knows how he got up there or how long he was hanging before a work crew came to rescue him. Giannis Goulas posted a six-minute video of the rescue effort, which involved ropes and ladders and possibly some profanity if you understand Greek. They managed to get the goat down by pulling him back toward the cliff.


A calf born on Kevin Mahoney’s farm in Hope, Indiana, got into a bit of a situation when he managed to slip through the boards of a wooden fence and walk onto an ice-covered pond. Hoofs are not ideal for negotiating ice, and the 3-day-old calf got about 40 feet out on the ice and could no longer keep feet his feet from slipping out from under him. Mahoney responded to the mother cow’s distress calls and tried to pull the calf in with a rope, but it was too short. So the Bartholomew County Sheriff's Office came with a 300-foot rope, which the farmer and deputies stretched across the pond beyond the calf and pulled toward shore in order to “scoot” the calf along. The dangerously chilled calf was taken to the farm’s heated basement to warm up. The calf, since named Chewbacca, survived the incident and has become a family pet, destined to live out his natural life on the farm.


RSPCA (England & Wales) via Facebook

In January, a tiny kitten got into a large industrial rubbish bin at a parking lot in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, UK. What’s worse, the kitten then put her head through the drain hole at the bottom and became stuck. A passerby noticed the kitten and alerted the RSPCA. Inspector Steve Morrall responded and knew that he would need more help, so he summoned the West Midlands Fire Service. The fire brigade used a small plastic collar coated with a lubricant to gently ease the kitten’s head back through the hole. A veterinarian was standing by in case sedation was needed. The kitten was then examined at a veterinary clinic and deemed healthy outside of an understandably low temperature. The 5-week-old kitten was turned over to the RSPCA, who named her Dusty and put her up for adoption.


Club vtt chaleur via Facebook

In December, a moose found itself trapped near Bathurst, New Brunswick after two of its legs slipped into the gap between the boards of a snow-covered bridge made for ATVs. By the time Philippe Doucet came along and found the animal, it had been trapped in that position for so long that icicles had formed on its legs. Doucet called forest rangers and several of his friends to help the moose. They cut two boards from the bridge and pushed the moose’s legs up from beneath. The female moose took some time to recover the use of its legs, but eventually got up and walked away. The ATV federation used the incident to emphasize to its members that spacing between the planks of a bridge should be small enough to prevent such accidents. See more pictures at Facebook.


Abbey House Veterinary Hospital via Facebook

This ferret was found hopelessly tangled in a fence in Ossett, West Yorkshire, UK, last November. He had gotten caught in his midsection, but instead of backing out, he tried returning to the other side through another opening in the fence, leaving him stuck in two places. The RSPCA couldn’t free him, so they called the fire brigade. Firefighters cut a section of the fence around the ferret and took it—fence and all—to Abbey House Veterinary Hospital. Veterinarian Laura Smith freed his head from one opening, but his midsection was wedged tightly. The ferret, later named Whoops, had to be anesthetized while the doctor and assistants cut the fencing away. Once they were sure that Whoops was okay, he was sent to South Cheshire Ferret Rescue, where he was adopted.

Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.


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