Here are some of our favouriite inspiring or cheeky animal stories from throughout 2021.

Harry the Wiltshire lion hoped to inspire the Three Lions for their Euro 2020 quarter-final match with his impressive footballing skills [he didn't].

Just like England's Harry Kane, the male lion is the leader of the pride of lions at Longleat Safari Park near to Warminster. And when keepers tossed in a football to stimulate the group, Harry was the first one onto the pitch.

He showed off his athletic prowess by stretching up to a tree branch to dislodge a red and white ball with the Three Lions emblem emblazoned on it. Lions have been living at Longleat since 1966 when England last won a major tournament.

A springer spaniel, called Freya, was sniffing out newts to enable the construction of a new sewer pipeline just north of Chippenham.

Wessex Water is the first utility company in the UK to have an in-house great crested newt detection dog, owned and trained by ecologist Nikki Glover.

Freya has been trained to spot the nocturnal amphibians, with UK and European legislation making it an offence to damage or destroy their environment without a licence from Natural England.

Chippenham joined other local authorities in the cause to protect hedgehogs.

The town council has signed itself up to the Roll of Honour, which has already been signed by dozens of towns and parish councils, in a bid to protect hedgehogs.

Being part of the scheme means stickers from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on strimmers and mowers.

The stickers are there to remind groundskeepers to check for hedgehogs before using the machinery. The group said that many hedgehogs lose their lives every year to strimmers and lawnmowers.

A Wiltshire community rejoiced after Maisie the dog, who had been lost for six days, was found.

Little Maisie broke free from her harness and spent days evading capture. Owners Dave and Amanda Burr had only owned the pup for five hours before she escaped outside their home on Poole Road.

As darkness fell it became clear that Maisie, a three-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was well and truly lost. Residents across Malmesbury had mobilised to help find her and 15-year-old Ben Thornbury launched his drone in a bid to track the skittish pup from the skies. Maisie had been spotted on a number of occasions within vast fields, but no-one had got close enough to catch her. After six days roaming the wilds of Malmesbury, Maisie was finally found and caught.

An overjoyed Trowbridge family were reunited with the Jack Russell they feared had died, when all along she had been snatched by dognappers.The Lamploughs in Cockhill made a desperate appeal to help find 13-year-old Dora after the terrier went missing. They celebrated after receiving the amazing news that she has been found alive.And they said it’s all thanks to the Times’ stories about her loss being shared on social media.Dora was discovered after police received a tip-off about solen dogs and raided a traveller camp in Gloucestershire.

Workers were dive bombed by gulls as they took their lunch breaks in Devizes and new pest control measures meant there’s little the town council can do about it.

The birds were causing havoc near the Hopton Industrial Estate in the north-east of the town and elsewhere people are complaining of disturbed sleep and mess. The town council believed there is a risk to public safety.

A previous bid to cut their numbers was denied by Natural England, which says noise, nuisance and mess are not reasons to grant a licence.

The new rules were introduced following pressure from wildlife campaigner Chris Packham and the council says the process for obtaining a licence is tortuous and resource-hungry.

Recreation committee chairman Nigel Carter said: “These are seagulls, not land gulls. There are some real horror stories from people, and the increase in numbers really does undermine people’s wellbeing.

A Malmesbury woman discovered an injured bat in her garden, which then proceeded to give birth.

Elise Josephine discovered the creature on the fountain of her fishpond yesterday afternoon.

"I got home from the family farm and went in the garden and the new fishpond fountain wasn't working," she said. "I went to check and there was the bat sitting on it.

"I sat with it for a while because it was out during the day which I didn't think was normal but then about half an hour later I saw movement that was odd and that's when the birth came on."

Sadly, the baby did not make it. The mother, believed to be a pipistrelle and suffering from a broken wing, went to a rescue and rehab centre.

Terry the stolen Swindon puppy was found – more than two months after he went missing and following a nationwide hunt involving thousands of people.

The baby border terrier who was taken from the car of Rosie O’Connor in September was back at home, safe and well and playing underneath the Christmas tree at the Swindon home of Rosie and her fiancée Jake.

Terry, now seven-months-old, was spotted by a viewer of an ITV appeal launched by Rosie, who has never given up trying to find her pup.

Rosie, 26, had 4,000 ‘missing dog’ posters put up all over the UK as more than 2,000 people joined her Facebook group to look for Terry. Even TV presenter Lorraine Kelly joined the hunt by sharing Rosie’s plaintive pleas for his return.

Terry went missing at lunchtime on September 26th after Rosie and Jake drove to the village of Kingscote, near Tetbury, to look at a venue as a possible wedding reception. As they toured the Matara Centre, they left Terry in the locked car, which was parked under a tree for shade, with water and with the rear windows slightly down so that he could have plenty of air.

But when they returned to the car, Terry had disappeared. The couple checked the windows but the gap was too narrow for the puppy to have squeezed through.

After searching for hours, Rosie turned to Facebook to ask if anyone had seen Terry. When that drew a blank, she had thousands of posters distributed across Britain and then went to the Swindon Advertiser to ask for help. Our story was picked up by the BBC and then ITV and good luck happened.

“ITV West Country ran the appeal and it was seen by the father of a couple who live in Gloucester. The dad rang his son and said ‘that dog you bought is stolen’.”

The Gloucester couple paid £300 for the puppy to a man in the street who claimed that Terry was the only pup left from a litter he had bred. The man’s description has now been given to Wiltshire Police.

“The couple were wonderful,” said Rosie, “they rang me and said, ‘this is not a scam, we’ve got your dog, he’s fine. It breaks our hearts to give him up because he’s so lovely, but you’ll have him back by this afternoon’,” said Rosie, who immediately drove to Gloucester to be reunited with her pup.

“The night before I got the call that he was safe I was completely broken, I just wanted to give up and then, overnight, everything changed. This is the best Christmas present we could have hoped for, we are so happy.”

She added: “We’d like to thank everybody throughout Wiltshire and across the country to kept looking for Terry, their support and encouragement kept me going in the bleakest times.

“I also want to really thank the Swindon Advertiser because it was their story that started it all off, if they hadn’t run their article I wouldn’t have got on the BBC or ITV.”