10 Craziest Animal Photos of 2012
While on vacation in the Cayman Islands in 2008, sorority sisters Sarah Bourland, Natalie Zaysoff and Kendall Harlan got the surprise of their lives when a tour guide flopped a stingray onto their backs just as a souvenir photographer pressed click. "We had no idea that was happening," Harlan told PEOPLE. "Those are genuinely frightened faces."
MOVER & SHAKER
So you think you can dance? This polar bear certainly can! Wildlife photographer Steven Kazlowski witnessed the 1-year-old bear swinging its hips and throwing its arms in the air during a trip to the Arctic Circle. But alas, the cub's moves are a result of its young age, when polar bears struggle with imbalance in trying to stand upright. "This curious and overexcited cub was trying to get a better look at us as we passed a few yards away," Kazlowski said.
AT A GLANCE
An avid bass fisher, Gabe Hedger routinely photographs the results of a successful fishing trip – which led him to realize his puggle Shane may be the one most elated by a good catch. "His face every time I catch a fish," Hedger wrote of his dog, whose intrigued expression and bulging eyes have become a fixture of the photos.
Up top! Shark Diver photographer Paul Spielvogel caught a magic moment on film when editor Eli Martinez got high-fived by a lemon shark during a dive in the Bahamas. "I was just snapping away, and this one came in and high-fived him," Spielvogel said. "You see that shot, and you go, 'That's not real.'"
LOOK OUT BELOW
After a bear wandered onto the University of Colorado Boulder campus and settled himself on a tree branch, members of the state's parks and wildlife committee were called in to help remove the animal – and student Andy Duann was able to capture the whole thing. "I was so excited," he told PEOPLE of his winning shot, which caught the tranquilized bear mid-air before he fell onto the cushioned mat below.
Leave it to Reddit to spot the similarities: When a street cat made himself comfortable along a sidewalk in the Turkish city of Istanbul – considered the unofficial street cat capital of the world – it found a following of users who dubbed it The Godfather cat, a reference to the iconic Marlon Brando character Don Corleone.
Proof that a smile really is contagious: When Reddit user Gunnar posted a photo of his seemingly smiling dog, Moose, on the site, it became an immediate viral phenomenon – and has since garnered nearly 800,000 views.
WHALE OF A TALE
During a whale-watching tour of the Antarctic Peninsula, one lucky tour group was treated to an especially amazing view when a humpback whale proceeded to dive into the ocean near their boat, leaving its tail above the surface."I've learned to expect the unexpected," said tour guide Tony Beck, who snapped the photo. "Those on the boat were smiling, many cheered and laughed."
"She doesn't like goats, she doesn't like farms, she likes the people and the city," owner Cyrus Fakroddin said of his 3-year-old alpine pygmy milking goat, Cocoa, who after having tasted the Big Apple's famous pizza, ventured back to New York City for a subway ride.
Weighing in at 45 lbs., 7-year-old Jack left his handler grimacing in a promotional photo for the U.K.'s Pet Fit Club, but he ended up being the biggest loser of all: the Cavalier King Charles spaniel was the program's top success.