Tournament of Animals

For nearly three months in 2011, a large, mysterious heifer evaded capture, roaming Plattsmouth for food at night and hiding in the woods during the day. The story of "ninja cow," as Plattsmouth residents dubbed her, has as many shocking turns as a daytime soap, giving Omaha.com a hit-grabbing series of headlines.

Ninja cow has a ninja calf! Ninja cow caught! Ninja cow escapes pen! Ninja cow caught again!

When her 15 minutes were up, ninja cow went to a Louisville, Neb. farm.

In the summer of 2012, 30 venomous snakes were removed from an Elkhorn-area home where two children live.

Sixteen rattlesnakes, five cobras, two vipers and seven other snakes were kept in aquariums in a second-floor bedroom.

The owner got ticketed (it's illegal to keep venomous snakes within Omaha city limits) and the snakes were taken to the zoo.

For nearly three months in 2011, a large, mysterious heifer evaded capture, roaming Plattsmouth for food at night and hiding in the woods during the day. The story of "ninja cow," as Plattsmouth residents dubbed her, has as many shocking turns as a daytime soap, giving Omaha.com a hit-grabbing series of headlines.

Ninja cow has a ninja calf! Ninja cow caught! Ninja cow escapes pen! Ninja cow caught again!

When her 15 minutes were up, ninja cow went to a Louisville, Neb. farm.

Bubbles, a 260-pound Atlantic green sea turtle, came to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo in 2003. She had been found near the Florida Keys after being struck by a boat propeller, making it impossible for her dive on her own (She could, however, dive when zoo staff attached a small weight to her shell).

In the summer of 2011, after more than a decade of health problems, Bubbles died following a medical procedure.

In 2009, a 3-week-old baby boy gorilla at the Henry Doorly Zoo wouldn't stop crying. When zoo staff removed him from his mother, Timu, they found he had a broken arm.

Staff and an orthopedic specialist (for humans) devised a bandage that held the baby gorilla's arm tight against his chest and stopped his crying. He made a relatively speedy recovery and regained use of his arm.

In 2009, a 3-week-old baby boy gorilla at the Henry Doorly Zoo wouldn't stop crying. When zoo staff removed him from his mother, Timu, they found he had a broken arm.

Staff and an orthopedic specialist (for humans) devised a bandage that held the baby gorilla's arm tight against his chest and stopped his crying. He made a relatively speedy recovery and regained use of his arm.

A 3-month-old kitten named Jacob was found by firefighters during a house fire in early 2012, his whiskers melted and all four paws burned.

Jacob recovered at the Nebraska Humane Society and got to wear some colorful bandages. Shelter staff said he had a sweet personality, often licking the hands that changed his bandages.

Lots of drama in the skies of downtown Omaha as of late.

First, Niobrara, a banded male peregrine falcon, was found dead on the roof of First National Tower, killed by another falcon, perhaps over mating territory.

It was presumed that Niobrara was killed by the falcon Zeus, the reigning king of downtown Omaha, whose mate is Hera. But then (twist!) Hera was found shacking up with another male falcon, as-of-yet unnamed, and Zeus is nowhere to be found.

Early last year, 40 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were captured in western Canada and brought to a 2,000-acre ranch in northwest Nebraska's Pine Ridge.

The transplant was part of a growing initiative to reintroduce the native species to Nebraska.

Most of our mountain lion stories don't have happy endings. But in the fall of 2003, one lucky cat not only got to live but thrive.

The mountain lion was shot with a shotgun when he charged an officer near 114th and Davenport. But the wound, in his left rear leg, didn't prove fatal so he was taken to Henry Doorly Zoo. He made a full recovery, with the aid of Lee Simmons (pictured above), the zoo's director at the time.

Early last year, 40 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were captured in western Canada and brought to a 2,000-acre ranch in northwest Nebraska's Pine Ridge.

The transplant was part of a growing initiative to reintroduce the native species to Nebraska.

A 3-month-old kitten named Jacob was found by firefighters during a house fire in early 2012, his whiskers melted and all four paws burned.

Jacob recovered at the Nebraska Humane Society and got to wear some colorful bandages. Shelter staff said he had a sweet personality, often licking the hands that changed his bandages.

Melek, a three-legged, 2-year-old English setter mixed-breed landed in Bellevue last month following a nine-month, globe-trotting trip.

When she was a stray in Avsallar, Turkey, she was hit by a car and befriended by a veterinarian who amputated her left hind leg. Her story caught the attention of an international animal-rescue group, who arranged for Melek to travel to Frankfurt, Germany, and then to a foster home for animals in Canada. A Bellevue woman saw Melek's photo on the group's website and helped bring her to Nebraska.

Now the Nebraska Humane Society is helping find Melek a permanent home.

Those who've cared for her describe Melek as loving, energetic and sweet.

Melek, a three-legged, 2-year-old English setter mixed-breed landed in Bellevue last month following a nine-month, globe-trotting trip.

When she was a stray in Avsallar, Turkey, she was hit by a car and befriended by a veterinarian who amputated her left hind leg. Her story caught the attention of an international animal-rescue group, who arranged for Melek to travel to Frankfurt, Germany, and then to a foster home for animals in Canada. A Bellevue woman saw Melek's photo on the group's website and helped bring her to Nebraska.

Now the Nebraska Humane Society is helping find Melek a permanent home.

Those who've cared for her describe Melek as loving, energetic and sweet.

In 2008, a penguin named Old Man became the first penguin in Omaha to undergo cataract surgery.

Getting him under for surgery was a real fight, but overall the operation went well, allowing him to regain some eyesight and improving his quality of life.

In 2008, a Marine unit stationed in Iraq adopted a donkey they named Smoke.

Though military rules prohibit unit mascots, a Navy doctor wrote a report attesting to the donkey's positive effect on morale, and the animal was allowed to stay. He became a huge hit with the other Marines and soldiers on base.

The Marines continued to take care of Smoke, but the Army soldiers who later took over the base gave the donkey to a local sheik.

When he found out about Smoke's situation, retired Col. John Folsom, the commander of the base when Smoke was adopted, battled red tape and logistical nightmares to bring Smoke to the United States.

In 2011, Smoke was taken to Miracle Hills Ranch and Stable north of Omaha in Washington County. In August 2012, he died.

Earlier this year, a 21-pound Schnauzer-Poodle mix named Elvis ran out of a house and traveled miles on his own. He was spotted days later across the street from the church where his owner's funeral had been held.

Elvis, about 6 years old, spent a lot of the previous year in bed with his owner, who was battling cancer.

A sickly snowy owl found in downtown Omaha last fall was released back into the wild this month after a long recovery.

When Raptor Recovery Nebraska captured the owl last November, he was dehydrated, emaciated and weighed less than half that of a healthy snowy owl. He was not expected to survive.

Albert Armendariz (pictured above) couldn't believe his eyes when 14-year-old Tippy disappeared down a storm sewer drain in front of his family's house during his morning bathroom break.

Tippy tried to find his own way out and began wandering along a 24-inch sewer pipe that runs down 136th Street. The dog was nowhere in sight when a crew from the utility company arrived about 9:30 a.m. to try to help him out. By the time the crew found him, Tippy had wandered 300 to 400 feet from the spot where he fell in.

In the end, a 6-foot-3 member of the utility crew had to climb into the 24-inch pipe (and out of it backwards) to rescue Tippy. By noon, Tippy was in his bed and resting comfortably with some dog biscuits.

We at Omaha.com traffic in a fair share of baby animal stories. One of the cutest in recent years has to be the quintet of lion cubs born late last year at Henry Doorly Zoo -- this was the first time lion cubs were born at the zoo in 18 years.

One of them had some initial health problems, but all five are doing well now, growing bigger and fiercer (but no less adorable) by the day.

When University of Nebraska at Kearney officials denied a student's request to keep a minature therapy dog (for depression) in her university apartment, the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., sued the school.

UNK asked a federal judge to dismiss the suit, but the Justice Department maintained its opinion that the university violated the U.S. Fair Housing Act by not accommodating students who need animals to help them cope with disabling mental illnesses.

We at Omaha.com traffic in a fair share of baby animal stories. One of the cutest in recent years has to be the quintet of lion cubs born late last year at Henry Doorly Zoo -- this was the first time lion cubs were born at the zoo in 18 years.

One of them had some initial health problems, but all five are doing well now, growing bigger and fiercer (but no less adorable) by the day.

A sickly snowy owl found in downtown Omaha last fall was released back into the wild this month after a long recovery.

When Raptor Recovery Nebraska captured the owl last November, he was dehydrated, emaciated and weighed less than half that of a healthy snowy owl. He was not expected to survive.

In 2008, a Marine unit stationed in Iraq adopted a donkey they named Smoke.

Though military rules prohibit unit mascots, a Navy doctor wrote a report attesting to the donkey's positive effect on morale, and the animal was allowed to stay. He became a huge hit with the other Marines and soldiers on base.

The Marines continued to take care of Smoke, but the Army soldiers who later took over the base gave the donkey to a local sheik.

When he found out about Smoke's situation, retired Col. John Folsom, the commander of the base when Smoke was adopted, battled red tape and logistical nightmares to bring Smoke to the United States.

In 2011, Smoke was taken to Miracle Hills Ranch and Stable north of Omaha in Washington County. In August 2012, he died.