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Archive for November, 2005

Got Raccoon Problems?

About 10 years ago I was getting so many questions about raccoons tearing up back lawns to find tasty earthworms to dine on, I put together a 6-page Raccoon Fact Sheet filled with tips to help people deal humanely with these raccoon encounters. After all, they are your wild neighbors.

If you are bumping heads with your raccoon neighbors, I’ll be happy to e-mail you a copy. Just e-mail me at garybug@infionline.net and ask for a copy of Gary’s Raccoon Fact Sheet. It will also be helpful if you give me a brief description of your raccoon problem.

If you have your own humane and successful way of dealing with these beautiful creatures, please click on "comments" (below) and let people know. You never know what’s going to work with these clever animals and it’s best to have a lot of ideas in your bag of tricks.

Due to popular demand, I’m also working on a new "Human Fact Sheet" for the raccoons. (Just kidding … I think.)

Posted on Wednesday, November 30th, 2005
Under: Animals, Raccoons, Wildlife, Yard | 2 Comments »

A GOOD way to keep cats from pooping in your yard

This is for those who don’t read my daily newspaper column. It’s my answer in my Nov. 18 column to a reader who wanted to know a humane way to keep the neighborhood cats from urinating and defecating in his garden:

"What works for me, as I’ve said before, is the organic catnip patch I planted in a far corner of my garden. (Last spring when I was picking up new tomato plants at the nursery, I also grabbed six 4-inch pots of catnip.)

"Now, instead of using my garden as their favorite outhouse, the cats make a daily pilgrimage to the catnip patch. They sniff, roll, and chew until their brains get confused, then forget about my yard and weave their ways back home to poop and pee on their own yards.

"My system — Gary’s One & Only Diversion (GOOD) — works about 75 percent of the time, which I can live with until I figure out how to improve on it. There’s definitely one very noticeable immediate improvement: My wife and I haven’t dug up any cat poop while we’ve been gardening this year.

"Can anyone top or improve on my GOOD catnip scheme?"

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2005
Under: Animals, Cats, Pets, Yard | 3 Comments »

Animal Liberation Front or Other Animal Actvists?

Anybody out there from the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), or any other animal activist groups, who feels like talking about what’s on your mind these days?

Last time I bantered back and forth with a supposed ALF member in my column was Nov. 18, 1984. I was taking you guys to task for vandalizing laboratories and got criticized for my "total lack of concern for the rights of animals" by "An Active Member of the ALF, Berkeley." The ALF member further stated that "we don’t harm or threaten people." I responded: "How long is it going to be before some nut, caught up in the excitement of the ALF cause, thinks it is justified to plant a real bomb? How are you going to control that?"

That was way too long ago. Things have heated up a lot since then. Buildings burned down, and real bombs have indeed been planted.

Can you still justify your cause, whatever it is? Defining it might be helpful. Just curious.   

Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2005
Under: Animal Activists, Animal Liberation Front, Animals | 1 Comment »

Contra Costa County Dangerous Animal Ordinance Approved

I attended the public hearing for Contra Costa’s new Dangerous Animal Ordinance at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the county supervisors chambers in Martinez. The first thing that caught my eye when I got out of the car was the large number of parking spaces that were available around the county building. The last public hearing I was at on any kind of animal ordinance, there wasn’t a place to park for blocks.

It was the same at the public hearing. Two people spoke about the ordinance, a man and a woman. That was it. The hearing was finished.

(When only a few people show up for a much publicized public hearing on a new dangerous dog ordinance, in my opinion that indicates that most county residents support it.)

All five of the county supervisors spoke positively about the proposed ordinance. Glen Howell, the director of Animal Services, pointed out that Contra Costa was one of the few counties in the state that didn’t have a dangerous dog ordinance like this and he said this should have been done a long time ago.

It was moved that the proposed new Dangerous Animal Ordinance be adopted. It passed unanimously.

Once they get things fine-tuned and hammer out the appropriate fees and charges to cover the new ordinance (Dec. 13 supervisors meeting), the county Animal Services Department should finally have the tools to deal with dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs before they hurt someone, not after. That should make a lot of parents and dog owners happy.

Congratulations to the Contra Costa County Supervisors, and all others who had anything to do with putting this new ordinance together, for a job well done.

Posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2005
Under: Animals, Cats, Dangerous Animal Ordinance, dogs, Pets | 6 Comments »

Trees Have Their Say

The leaves are finally falling in my yard. Splashes of Japanese maple red and apple tree yellow become an ever-changing impressionistic painting in the wind.

Posted on Monday, November 14th, 2005
Under: color, Fall, Seasons, Trees | No Comments »

When in Rome

According to a story by Tracy Wilkinson in the Nov. 9 Los Angeles Times, Rome, Italy, has now:

  • Banned goldfish bowls (too small). The fish must be kept in a full-size aquarium. You also can’t give the fish away as contest prizes.
  • Required dog owners to exercise their pets daily, or pay a $625 fine.
  • Forbidden the use of choke and electric collars.
  • Forbidden cosmetic declawing and tail and ear docking in dogs and cats.
  • Banned displaying pets for sale in store windows.

Do you think it’s catching?

Posted on Friday, November 11th, 2005
Under: Animals, Cats, dogs, Fish, Pets | 4 Comments »

The Color of Fall

Joan Wright takes a colorful look at fall. I lead with her letter in today’s newspaper column in the Times, but thought I’d also like to include it here to hopefully give it a wider audience. I like what she has to say about life.

Dear Gary: It happened once again. I was caught off guard by that first day of crisp cool air. That air that comes to lead us into and transport us through fall.  That air that seems to make our vision more sharp. Stars glisten in it at night and the daytime sky becomes a brilliant blue.

Each year I know it is coming but am always surprised by when. I love this transition between summer and winter. I love how the squirrel in my backyard changes from a happy lazy buffoon into a serious scavenger with way too much work to do. He no longer has hours to tease my cat, because that crisp air has warned him winter is coming.

I love how my cat begins to plump up even though she is getting the exact same amount of food. Her fur is thicker and more beautiful with each passing day. That crisp air dictates that she now sleeps curled up instead of stretched out.

But I appreciate the crisp air most for the COLOR. This time of year you have to dig deep to come up with color words special enough to describe what you see. Some trees seem to change overnight and others leaf by leaf. But the result is the same: russet, golden, auburn, burgundy, vermilion, scarlet, ochre, saffron and the list goes on.

Odd how that crisp cold air seems to magnify the brilliance of those colors and everything else that is part of this transition we call fall. (Joan Wright, Concord, Ca.)

Posted on Wednesday, November 9th, 2005
Under: color, Fall, Seasons | No Comments »

Raking leaves? Watch out for Pacific treefrogs.

I spent most of Sunday morning raking leaves up from my patio. The weather forecast was for rain and I didn’t want to deal with piles of soggy leaves. They were already pretty damp because the nights have been moist lately.

Once I got a decent pile of leaves, I started scooping them up with my hands and tossing them into a large plastic garbage bag. As I grabbed my first handful, I spotted some movement and found myself looking down into the sleepy eyes of a Pacific treefrog, the tiny amphibian with the BIG voice. I carefully separated the little frog from the leaves and released it next to the bird bath, where the scrub jays always keep the area wet with their daily bathing.

By the time I had all the leaves loaded into the bag, there were six treefrogs hiding in the plants around the bird bath and croaking their little heads off, a cappella.

They sounded so great, it inspired me to dump the leaves back on the patio and go through them two more times to make sure I hadn’t missed anybody.

Posted on Monday, November 7th, 2005
Under: Amphibians, Pacific treefrogs, Wildlife | 1 Comment »

Time for the coyote’s early morning walk

I’ve been looking forward to the first really good rain to kick off the winter. Last night was a good one and the remaining light mist felt good on my face when I got up in the dark to go to work this morning. It was just too tempting and I decided to take a short walk around the block first and enjoy it.

It was garbage day and I could see the blue garbage bins lined up all the way down to the corner. Suddenly I saw something moving on top of one of the containers. I slowed down, trying not to make any noise as I walked on the wet pavement. As I got closer, I finally made it out. A coyote!

The wild and wily canine, about the size of a small German shepherd, was so focused on trying to paw open the bin’s lid that it didn’t notice the curious human who was standing about 30 feet away. Trying to paw open a plastic garbage bin while you’re skittering around on your claws and trying to keep your balance on top of the lid is akin to trying to saw off a limb while you’re sitting on it. It’s an almost unworkable situation but if it does work you’re going to fall off and hurt yourself. But that’s the human thinking. All the coyote was thinking about was that wonderful smell from last night’s dinner.

The coyote suddenly stopped and turned and looked straight at me. As our eyes met I smiled and just that tiny movement was all it took to send the animal leaping from the bin to disappear into the dark shadows behind it. I hadn’t moved or made any sounds since I had arrived, at least not any sounds that I could perceive. But I don’t have a coyote nose or coyote ears. Sometimes I wonder if these marvelous beasts have their own form of ESP. Or maybe I had just been betrayed by an errant breeze.

I opened the bin and looked inside. Steak bones! No wonder. I scooped them up, left them in a big juicy pile on the sidewalk, and headed back to my house and car so I could go to work.

That was a lot more fun than walking a dog.

Posted on Friday, November 4th, 2005
Under: Animals, coyotes, wild predators, Wildlife | No Comments »

Falling asleep to the sound of “hoo hoohoo hoo hoo”

Right after Lois and I went to bed last night a great horned owl that was perched in the top of the redwood tree just outside our bedroom window started to hoot. It was so loud it felt like it was sitting right next to me on my pillow.

I knew it was a male owl because of the frequency and combination of his hoots. It was a low pitched, evenly paced "hoo hoo hoo."

After about five minutes of hooting around, a female suddenly answered him from across the canyon with some higher pitched hooting: "hoo hoohoo hoo hoo."

It’s kind of neat lying in the darkness in bed and listening to all this going on in my yard. We were almost perched right up there in the top of the tree with that great horned owl, listening to him trying to convince the lady owl from across the canyon to fly over so they can go perch outside someone’s front window and snuggle up and watch television together.

Great horned owls do their courting in the winter months, usually November and December. They build their nests sometime in December, lay eggs and compete with the tiny hummingbirds to see who hatches the earliest babies of the year. Curious that one of the largest of our birds of prey and the smallest of the nectar drinkers would both nest and raise their chicks while the wintery winds are ruffling their feathers and the freezing rains are still soaking the grass.

As Mother Nature would say, size has nothing to do with toughness in the wild world.

"hoo hoo hoo."

"hoo hoohoo hoo hoo."

That’s a nice sound to fall asleep to.

Posted on Thursday, November 3rd, 2005
Under: Animals, breeding, great horned owl, nesting, wild birds, Wildlife | 2 Comments »