The 10 most captivating animal stories of 2023 in Southern California – NBC Los Angeles

The 10 most captivating animal stories of 2023 in Southern California – NBC Los Angeles

Animals and wildlife rarely fail to captivate our attention, and 2023 was no exception.

From groundbreaking discoveries to heartwarming rescue stories, the year was filled with noteworthy events that underscored the importance of relationships and encounters with wildlife.

Live on T.V. with a 15-foot snake

NBC4 reporter Robert Kovacik had a close encounter with a 15-foot python called Big Mama that had gone missing in Chatsworth on the Fourth of July.

Kovacik was there to report the joy of the owner, and of the neighbors, when he finally found it. Big Mama was ‘hugging’ the reporter while he was reporting live for the 5 p.m. newscast.


Big Mama is back home The 15-foot pet snake that went missing on July 4 in Chatsworth was finally found safe and sound in a neighbor’s house days later. The Villalta family began warning neighbors when they noticed Big Mama had escaped last week. Visit for more details. nbcla

♬ original sound – NBCLA

Big Mama the 15-foot python.

Orange County man records face-to-face encounter with mountain lion

Wildlife photographer Mark Girardeau, who has had five total encounters with local mountain lions in the Santa Ana Mountains, shares valuable knowledge of what to do if you meet one yourself.

In another heart-pounding encounter, an Orange County man came face-to-face with a mountain lion while hiking on a trail Wednesday evening.

Mark Girardeau, a wildlife photographer, was in the Trabuco Canyon area of Orange County checking his motion-activated cameras in the area when he noticed the big cat staring at him.

“I was on my way up the hill to check some other cameras when I suddenly spotted her,” he recalled. “She was sitting there, just a couple hundred feet away, staring right at me.”

A mountain lion mother and her cub play together in Santa Ana Mountains

An Orange County man has captured and shared rare video of mountain lions and other wild animals for over three years.

But mountain lions also showed us their love. In a breathtaking display of natural behavior, an Orange County resident has captured an incredible video featuring a mountain lion mother and her playful young cub.

The heartwarming footage captured in the Santa Ana Mountains near San Juan Capistrano offers a rare glimpse into the lives of these elusive predators, captivating wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Co-parenting Big Bear Bald Eagles take turns to keep their eggs warm

The bald eagles may be spending their final days of incubating their eggs amid the snow storm in Big Bear.

The historic winter storm that brought at least 45 inches of snow in February did not seem to affect Jackie and Shadow, the bald eagles who had been incubating a pair of eggs in Big Bear.   

The live footage captured by Friends of Big Bear Valley showed one of the eagles warming the eggs surrounded by a thick layer of snow while looking out to the snow-covered mountains. While Big Bear’s overnight temperatures have been dropping to below freezing, the birds are made to weather the cold temperatures.

Earlier images from the weekend caught a moment of the “shift change” when the co-parenting birds were taking turns to take over the nest duty. Jackie and Shadow were seen doing parenting tradeoffs to keep the eggs fully covered and protected amid the bad weather.

Family of coyotes spotted playing outside Montecito Heights home

A family of coyotes with at least six pups was caught on surveillance footage outside of a Montecito Heights home.

Talking about family… a coyote pack was spotted outside a home in Montecito Heights in June. 

A home security camera caught the moment the mother coyote waited out on the driveway of the home. Soon a few of the pups begin to show up on camera, then more of them rush out to join the mother and their siblings. 

At least six pups are seen in the video running around and playing until they follow behind their mother into the night. 

A puppy in the middle of an LA a pursuit

Investigators are trying to figure out who tossed a puppy out of a moving vehicle during a chase in south Los Angeles County. Eric Leonard reports April 10, 2023.

A puppy was thrown out of a moving vehicle during a chaotic police pursuit that spanned two hours and several Los Angeles communities.

The pursuit of a 27-year-old attempted murder and carjacking suspect began near San Pedro and 101 streets in the South Los Angeles area. Police pursued the pickup with a heavily damaged front suspension into the LAX area, where the driver rammed through cars at a stoplight before stopping and getting into a getaway SUV stopped on the street.

At some point, the puppy was placed in a designer bag and throw out of the moving vehicle. LAPD officers rescued the dog, who was turned over to the South LA Animal Services.

‘Little Blue Penguins’ in La Jolla

The Little Blue Penguins have been a sensation since arriving at the aquarium in June 2022. Now there’s more good news for avian enthusiasts: Five new Little Blues have joined the waddle in 2023.

Animal’s comic side

From a kangaroo seemingly rocking out on an air guitar to a happy turtle, the 2023 Comedy Wildlife Photography Award winners will surely make you say “animals, they’re just like us.”

Here are some of the winners:

Overall Winner and Alex Walker’s Serian Creatures of the Land Award – Air Guitar Roo (Jason Moore/Comedy Wildlife 2023)
If you think only humans complain… you have to see this picture. Affinity Photo 2 People’s Choice Award and Junior Award – Dispute (Jacek Stankiewicz/Comedy Wildlife 2023)
This “Happy Turtle” knows how to enjoy life. Highly Commended Winner – The happy turtle (Tzahi Finkelstein/Comedy Wildlife 2023)

Bad year for SoCal marine mammals

More and more dead or dying marine mammals are increasingly washing ashore along the Southern California coast. Macy Jenkins reports June 25, 2023.

A bloom of toxic algae across the Southern California Coast may have been responsible for the deaths and illness of hundreds of sea lions and dolphins.

The Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute received more than 1,000 reports of marine mammals that were sick or dead from June 8 to June 14.

“It’s real bad. We’re in a crisis period,” said Peter Wallerstein, president and founder of Marine Animal Rescue Specialists.

Experts blame toxic algae blooms poisoning smaller fish, then turning into a neurotoxin when eaten by larger marine animals.

Cat rescued by Caltrans workers on 5 Freeway will have a new family

Caltrans employees rescued a cat that was discovered on the 5 Freeway in Orange County.

A wayward cat that was found by Caltrans employees on the 5 Freeway in Orange County will be up for adoption following treatment for its injuries.

The workers spotted the orange cat curled up near the center divider of the freeway mistaking it for a deceased animal. Upon further inspection, they realized the kitten was just frightened and injured, too weak to move.

The Caltrans employees acted quickly grabbing whatever articles of clothing they could find inside their work truck and took the cat to the Mission Viejo Animal Services Center for much-needed care.

Several NBC4 reporters and digital producers contributed to this article.

The 10 most captivating animal stories of 2023 in Southern California – NBC Los Angeles

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