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Archive for October, 2005

Proposed Contra Costa County Dangerous Animal Ordinance

Hopefully the proposed Contra Costa Dangerous Animal Ordinance will pass when the county supervisors vote on it on Nov. 15. After reading it, I think the ordinance works for me. Hopefully it will strengthen the county’s dangerous dog laws enough to help the Animal Services Department deal with problem owners and their animals before somebody gets hurt, instead of after. That’s what this is really all about. Time will tell.

You can read a copy of the proposed ordinance at:

Please click on "Comments" below if you have anything to say about the ordinance.

Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2005
Under: Animals, Cats, Dangerous Animal Ordinance, dogs, Pets | 6 Comments »

Anybody Seen Any Wild Turkeys Lately?

Dear Gary:

Some time ago you were asking about wild turkey sightings and we had one female that occasionally appeared in North Berkeley, north of the Cal campus. Last saw her about 2 years ago. I was driving to work about 8:45 a.m. this morning (Oct. 26) and there was a huge flock (15-20) of wild turkeys at a street corner about 6 blocks north of campus. Traffic stopped while they debated at length, then finally the whole flock crossed the street, in the crosswalk, and leisurely headed west. They were all about the same size. Didn’t notice any males, but OBVIOUSLY there must be some around. (Mary Durantini, Berkeley)

Posted on Thursday, October 27th, 2005
Under: Animals, wild turkeys, Wildlife | No Comments »

Don’t Shoot The Wrong Deer!

A story in the Contra Costa Times on Saturday, Oct. 22, stated that a federal trapper may have shot the wrong buck, and not the one responsible for attacks on local dogs in Orinda, Ca. If that’s the case, it is unforgivable. A picture of the problem buck was available and a neighbor offered a copy to the trapper to help him ID the right deer. He refused to take it. And now the wrong deer may be dead.

Killing sometimes gets to be too easy.

Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2005
Under: Animals, deer, Killing, Wildlife | 4 Comments »

Is There A Humane Way To Keep Neighborhood Cats Out Of Your Yard?

I knew this subject was going to pop up sooner or later. I just got this note from Pat in Antioch, Ca.:

"Any chance of adding a topic to your blog? Maybe someone else has had luck with a problem kitty! A neighbor’s cat frequents my yard (jumping over at least two fences to get here), and while my bird feeders are (hopefully) out of his reach, I still worry about my feathered friends. I’ve talked to his owner, but to no avail. I realize it’s not HIS fault that his owners are of THAT mentality, but I must admit, I’m liking him less as time goes on."

OK, cat "lovers," please pass along your hopefully helpful and always humane solutions for resolving the universal and seemingly never-ending problem of keeping cats out of your yard. (Just click on "Comments" at the end of this section and have your say.)

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2005
Under: Animals, Cats, Pets, wild birds, Wildlife | 35 Comments »

Spotted Any New Wild Birds Flying in Your Backyard This Fall?

It’s fall, I live in Benicia, Ca., which is just across the Bay from San Francisco on the Sacramento River, and just down the road from the Sacramento Delta area. My backyard is also right in the middle of the Pacific Flyway, and wild birds travel back and forth above my house as they migrate from one area to another. The best part is when some of these birds stop off in my yard to "refuel" before continuing their flights north or south.

Let’s see … the "red-shafted" flicker arrived a couple of weeks ago and is still screaming from the top of one of my redwood trees. The golden-crowned sparrows and the white-crowned sparrows landed in their little flocks last weekend, along with the "Oregon" juncos. And a male rufous hummingbird popped out of nowhere to start annoying the male Anna’s hummingbird that thinks he owns my yard. Unfortunately for the Anna’s, the tiny rufous can fly rings around it. Soon, I’ll be lying awake at night listening to the big flocks of honkers as they cruise by above my yard heading for the Delta. I’m still wondering what happened to the orioles. They’re usually here by now, sucking my hummingbird feeders dry.

Hey, can you tell I like the fall? What about you? Anything new in your yard?

Posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2005
Under: Animals, wild birds, Wildlife | 4 Comments »

Are Raccoons Digging Up Your Lawn Or Causing Other Problems?

Looks like it’s "that" time of year again. I’m getting a lot of calls about "torn up lawns." If you need a copy of my free 6-page raccoon fact sheet, filled with lots of humane ideas on how to protect your yard and get along with your wild neighbors … send a legal-size, stamped (with two stamps), self-addressed envelope to: Gary’s Raccoon Help, c/o The Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099.

Posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2005
Under: Animals, Raccoons, Wildlife | 7 Comments »

Tricks and Treats to Keep Indoor Cats Happy

In the endless debate on the merits of keeping cats indoors, or outdoors, or indoors AND outdoors, one of the most common arguments against keeping cats permanently inside is that they’ll get bored. Here are a few tricks and treats used by Jill Behpour of Concord, Ca., to keep that from happening. She has two brother cats that have lived happily inside ever since they were kittens.

  • Play with the cats a couple of times a day; laser pointer, rattle toy on wand, rolling balls.
  • Play videos of birds for them. Play other videos that capture their interest. One cat likes to watch horses, the other will watch dogs. One likes the Muppets on Sesame Street, seeing them as prey (maybe he’s learning something, too).
  • Buy grass for them to eat at the grocery store (cheaper than at the pet store and similar).
  • One cat loves boxes. Put a new box out for him to curl up in. Vary the sizes. He got stumped by a Kleenex box!
  • Place cat in a sturdy bag and carry him around, talking to him. It’s like an amusement park ride for him!
  • If there’s a bug inside they can see but not reach, knock it down for them. They satisfy their hunting cravings this way, and we have 68% fewer bugs around!
  • One cat loves to "help me make the bed" by sitting in the middle of the bed while I place the sheet and covers over him. Then we play, "where’s kitty?" as he is under the covers in a big lump, hiding.
  • Always have a place for them to sit or lie in front of a window or windows, so they can see and hear outside. Make sure the windows are locked and screens securely fastened!
  • Always provide them with lots of love and sweet words and tons of petting. If you pay them enough attention, they may lose their appetite for the not-so-great outdoors, and put their focus back in the household.

Posted on Monday, October 17th, 2005
Under: Animals, Cats, Pets | 3 Comments »

Comforting thoughts that help you when a pet dies

Do you have any poems or prayers to share that bring comfort to people (and you) when a pet dies? Below is a wonderful piece called "Rainbow Bridge" that has helped many people over the years. Click on "Comments" at the end to add your own comments and/or favorite special prayers/poems.

These are special thoughts we all need to share.

The Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called The Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to The Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross The Rainbow Bridge together …

— author unknown

Posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2005
Under: Animals, death, Pets | 13 Comments »

The Beastly Blogger

Who Gives a Hoot?

Sunday morning, about 10 a.m., all the scrub jays in the area suddenly flew to the top of my backyard redwood tree and cut loose with a LOT of raucous racket, as only scrub jays can.

It was a "call to arms." Jays are the watchdogs of the neighborhood. If they spot a cat that they know likes to hunt birds, or a hawk, or an owl, or a gopher snake, they’ll zoom in as close as they can to the intruder and scream their fool heads off to alert other birds in the area of the potential danger.

I knew it must be pretty important when I first heard them because one of the jays dropped a peanut I had just fed it. Nothing is as important to a jay as its peanuts … except a "call to arms." Duty calls, as they say.

Within minutes, our two resident jays were joined by four other jays from surrounding territories. Normally, our jays would have been all over the new jays for intruding in their territory, but when the call to arms goes out, the problem area becomes a sort of neutral territory as all the other birds band together against a common danger. The jays were followed by a towhee, two Anna’s hummingbirds that zipped and zoomed around the top of the redwood in formation like a fighter plane escort, and a mockingbird. Later, two crows joined the fray.

One particularly aggressive jay kept diving into the foliage, screaming like crazy. I could see branches bouncing up and down as the now invisible jay banged around the interior of the tree and yelled at something.

Initially, I figured it was a red-tailed hawk or a great horned owl. A Cooper’s hawk would have been too fast and probably have caught the aggressive jay by this time and come cruising out with it clenched in its talons. After another 15 minutes a red-tail would have tired of the annoying jays and lumbered into the sky and off across the canyon. That meant it was a great horned owl, a huge, patient bird that was probably perched up close to the trunk and planning to spend the day sleeping there as soon as the jays left. Nothing chases away one of those big owls if it doesn’t want to leave.

After about an hour, the jays and other birds tired of their fun, decided the intruder wasn’t dangerous and flew off to go about their business. Curious, I slipped out the back door, got down on my hands and knees and crawled carefully under the lower redwood branches and into the room-like area in the middle of the tree. I looked up through the branches. There, near the top and sitting on a large branch next to the thick trunk … was the great horned owl. Its head was cocked over to the side and one of its huge round yellow eyes was glaring down at me.

I crawled back out from under the tree so the owl could have its nap.

Been eavesdropping on your wild neighbors lately?

Feel like sharing?

Posted on Monday, October 10th, 2005
Under: Animals, Wildlife | No Comments »

Deer vs. Dogs

Buck Deer Attacking Dogs in Orinda, Ca.

I wish there was a better way of dealing with the buck deer in Orinda that has been attacking dogs in their yards, other than shooting it.

Unfortunately, at the present time there doesn’t appear to be one. Maybe this event will give people ideas for dealing more humanely with these kinds of problems in the future.

The deer killed one dog, wounded another and attacked two others over a period of several days. The California Department of Fish and Game has issued a depredation permit for a professional hunter to kill the buck because of its threat to dogs.

I’ve had many phone calls asking me why they don’t just relocate the deer to a new area? I called Eric Larson, DFG deputy regional manager and asked him.

"We don’t relocate wildlife as a practice," he said. "We do it with bears and have done it with wild turkeys. We don’t relocate deer because of the risk of injury to the animal. Relocating a problem animal also just relocates the problem to another area. We also don’t have the staff to do it."

Larson also told me the depredation permit was issued for the hunter to kill the deer because his department was required by state law to do so. "If you can show us damage to your property by a wild animal and request a depredation permit, we cannot refuse."

From my own viewpoint, relocating the deer would also risk relocating any local diseases to a new area. It would also bring the buck into competition with other deer that already live in the new territory and throw them into a tizzy. In other words, it would create lots of new problems.

I personally consider this particular buck’s attacks on multiple dogs to be an aberration. An isolated case. In 35 years of writing my daily newspaper column I’ve never received reports of a deer that tracked down dogs in their yards and attacked them. I talked to Times staff writer Denis Cuff who interviewed people and wrote the Oct. 7 story about the buck. He said the local game warden told him she had never encountered a deer that aggressive in 16 years. The Orinda Police chief told him he’d been a beat cop for many years, patrolling Orinda neighborhoods, and never seen such a problem.

On the other hand, it has happened before. Cuff also told me a DFG biologist told him a relative in Colorado had a dog that was gored to death by a deer. So yes, it’s extremely rare, but it does obviously happen.

Let’s hope it will be many, many years before we encounter it again, in Orinda or anyplace else.

One thing we can all do to help keep it from happening again is to NOT feed the deer. That just attracts them to our yards … where our dogs live.

Posted on Friday, October 7th, 2005
Under: Animals, deer, Wildlife | 8 Comments »