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Chicago’s Quirky Year in Creatures

From a white fox eating raw eggs to an old dead lungfish, these are the year’s best urban animal stories, ranked

7 Chicago’s cat cafe drama
Chicago finally joined the 21st century with the opening of not one, not two, but three cat cafes (one of which was a cat-themed arcade), more than two years after the first was announced. But the victory for the city’s kitty lovers did not come easily. One opened to protests and a failed health inspection and another was vandalized in the weeks before its scheduled launch. Windy Kitty, the first of the bunch to offer the cat cafe trinity of kitty-petting, coffee and pastries, and cat yoga, all in the same space, opened this month. Below, check out our video tour of The Catcade.

6 Area zoos mourn Mithra the giraffe, Kobe the polar bear, and Granddad the lungfish
The Chicago area lost three of its most wizened and beloved creatures in 2017: Brookfield Zoo’s Mithra the giraffe, a 27-year old matriarch whose lineage included three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; Lincoln Park Zoo’s 16-year-old polar bear, Kobe; and Shedd Aquarium’s Granddad, an Australian lungfish who was estimated to be more than 90 years old. Granddad was the oldest fish in any public zoo or aquarium in the world.

Rest in peace, you magnificent creatures. Photo: (Mithra) Courtesy of Brookfield Zoo; (Kobe) Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo; (Grandad) Jim Prisching

5 The mysterious West Side white fox
For more than two weeks this fall, a baby white fox named Loki roamed the streets of Austin. Residents spotted him lounging on roofs, trotting through alleys, scampering across yards, and devouring rodents. Eventually, Loki’s owner (who has a permit for this rare species) found him in the abandoned home behind his own. After hearing the familiar voice call his name, Loki crawled out of his hiding place and let his owner rub his belly. He rewarded Loki with his favorite treat: raw eggs.

4 New Apple store accused of causing bird collisions
Barely a week after the grand opening of its glassy, riverfront store, Apple faced accusations that the structure posed a danger to birds. The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, a volunteer watchdog group that picks up birds that become stunned, injured, or die after striking buildings, claimed that the building’s transparent walls and bright lights were behind the collisions. The store’s manager said they would dim the lights at night for the rest of the migratory season, according to the Tribune.

3 Rogue Asian carp caught on Lake Michigan’s doorstep
In June, a fisherman caught a live Asian carp—an invasive species known for decimating native fish populations—in the Calumet River. The fish somehow made its way past three electronic barriers designed to fortify the Great Lakes against its kind and swam to a point nine miles from Lake Michigan. A follow-up investigation found no other Asian carp near the lake, but a fierce debate over how to best address the carp threat has ensued anyway.

The state of Michigan is offering up to $500,000 to whoever can come up with the best way to protect the Great Lakes from the aquatic invaders. Some legislators support a $275 million plan involving underwater noise and water jets, while attorneys general from three states support a $5.9 million plan to Build a Wall. No word yet on whether they expect the carp to pay for it.

2 Chicago named country’s “rat capital”… again
For the third year in a row, our beautiful city was named the country’s rattiest by pest control company Orkin. The ranking came a few months after city began testing a poison designed to render rats infertile on the South Side. Some people, however, were not convinced about Chicago’s top billing:

And let’s not forget about New York:

1 Wild “zombie dogs” stalk Chicago suburbs
Residents of northwest suburb Hanover Park almost went the way of extras in a horror movie during the first week of September. Malnourished, mangy canines—referred to by the village’s police as “zombie dogs"—were roaming the streets. It turned out, they were actually urban coyotes with a sarcoptic mange infection, which—in addition to making them look like the four-legged walking dead—spurs them to seek out food during daylight hours. It was a story so juicy that it was even covered by RT.com, Russia’s government-funded news website.

New Year’s resolution for the city? Fewer rats and bird collisions, but way more cat cafe drama.

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