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The best animal stories of 2022

The incredible tale of Reggie the alligator and other top animals stories from 2022.
(Los Angeles Times)
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At Column One, The Times’ showcase for storytelling, we share stories tragic and comic, haunting and inspiring. This year we featured tales about a remote worker who died alone at home, about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, about the strange sport of artistic swimming.

We also can’t resist a good animal story.

Technically, the protagonists of these tales are not human — and sport two, four or even eight legs — but it’s hard not see some of ourselves in these stories too. As we revisit the most memorable animals stories Column One brought you in 2022, let’s start with L.A.’s beloved, and now mourned, celebrity mountain lion.

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He’s terminally single and getting old: What’s next for P-22, L.A.’s favorite wild bachelor?

Photo of P-22 taken with a remote camera in Griffith Park.
(Michael Ordeñana / Natural History Museum)

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P-22 has stayed in the heart of Los Angeles for 10 years, eating mule deer and raccoons, slinking through hillside neighborhoods, causing the occasional media frenzy by lodging himself under a house or killing a koala at the zoo.

Those escapades, plus his photogenic face, have helped turn P-22 into the world’s most famous and beloved mountain lion.

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Postscript: P-22, suffering from chronic health problems and likely hit by a car recently, was “compassionately euthanized” Saturday morning, wildlife officials announced.

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The amazing story of Reggie, L.A.’s celebrity alligator

Reggie the alligator lives at the L.A. Zoo.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

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Fifteen years ago, people gathered by the hundreds just to catch a glimpse of Reggie the alligator in a Harbor City lake. Reggie gained celebrity status, appearing in headlines from Long Beach to London.

We look back at his remarkable journey to the Los Angeles Zoo, where he lives companionably with a female named Tina.
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The avian soap opera unfolding atop this Berkeley bell tower has humans riveted

Peregrine falcons Annie and Grinnell atop the Campanile tower at UC Berkeley captured on the CalFalcons nest cam.
(CalFalcon)

Nesting in UC Berkeley’s bell tower, peregrine falcons Annie and Grinnell raised five broods. But mating season was far from drama-free.

Their roller-coaster relationship came to an end when Grinnell was found dead, but Annie wasn’t done making falcon babies. There was a New Guy that appeared to give this bird tale a happy ending.

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Tarantulas in Colorado go on a deadly quest for love

Volunteer Patrick Armstrong holds a captured female tarantula in a plastic cup.
(Helen H. Richardson / Denver Post via Getty Images)

Each autumn in southeast Colorado, hordes of fuzzy, fist-sized male tarantulas emerge from their burrows to scour the shortgrass prairie for mates.

But during their journey, so many are squished each year that scientists are proposing tunnels to help them traverse certain roadways. It’s a hard sell. Tarantulas are not endangered.

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How a homeless woman and her ‘emotional support duck’ survive on the streets of L.A.

Autumn McWilliams walks along Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles with a Pekin duck she named Cardi D.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

For Autumn McWilliams, who is homeless, walking in L.A. with Cardi D the duck feels like being part of a celebrity entourage, with fans flocking for a closer look.

But Cardi D is more than a source of amusement. She has become an “emotional support duck” for McWilliams, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression and anxiety.

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Feral pigs are biological time bombs. Can California stem their ‘exponential’ damage?

Wild pigs feed on roots and acorns in Joseph D. Grant County Park in Santa Clara County.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

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They chew up native plants, spread disease and threaten people.

California’s feral pig population has become a monumental headache for government land managers, farmers, homeowners, conservation biologists and water district officials. But there is no clear way to ease the pain.

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Meet the women hunting giant pythons ‘eating everything’ in the Everglades

Donna Kalil, 60, of Kendall, Fla., holds a Burmese python she captured.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Burmese pythons have become a scourge in the Everglades of south Florida since one was first spotted in the 1970s — ferocious, fecund and indiscriminate in their feeding behavior.

While most Florida python hunters are men, Donna Kalil and one of her proteges have proved to be highly effective eradicators. They hunt not to collect trophies, they say, but to help save the native creatures that live in and around the Everglades.

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Meet Rufus, the hawk who keeps pigeons away from Wimbledon

Rufus, the Harris' hawk who patrols Wimbledon, often hops from seat to seat or perches to view Centre Court.
(Sam Farmer / Los Angeles Times)

One of the stars at Wimbledon each year is Rufus, the Harris’ hawk who scares pigeons away from the stadiums and grandstands.

The unleashing of the hawk is a tradition that started in 1999 and has become as much a part of these storied two-week championships. Fifteen-year-old Rufus is nearing the end of his reign, and 3-year-old Horace is waiting in the wings.

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One man is fighting to end California’s ban on ferrets. Is time running out?

Pat Wright, 63, holds his ferret named Merlin.
(Ana Ramirez / San Diego Union-Tribune)

It’s illegal to keep ferrets as pets in California, a fact that has defined much of Pat Wright’s adult life.

In nearly three decades of ferret activism, the 63-year-old La Mesa resident has gone to jail, run for political office, lobbied legislators, collected thousands of signatures and battled decades of rejection and apathy. Through it all, Wright has owned a succession of pet ferrets.

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