Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for July, 2006

The cycle of life

Gary: I wanted to write to you to share the slice of nature’s drama that been unfolding on my front porch over the past several weeks.

My spider plant recently became home to a family of sparrows (at least, I think they’re sparrows). About two months ago the two adults diligently constructed a lovely little nest, tucked neatly beside the plant fronds in my heart-shaped planter pot hanging from the eaves. Shortly thereafter, two blue eggs appeared and within days, another two. The little female faithfully sat on the eggs day and night to keep her brood warm, leaving only when humans dared step onto the porch, like the mail carrier or UPS driver.

I think I was as anxious for the little birds to hatch as were momma and poppa. Two weeks ago the first of four tiny critters poked its head above the edge of the pot. At first, their peeps were so muted I could barely hear them at feeding time nor were they big enough to see. But how quickly they have grown! Now they seem nearly as large as the two attentive adults.

At feeding time, all four rise up from the leaves, loudly peeping with beaks agape, begging for as much food as mom can supply. Their fuzzy heads are so cute. They look like prehistoric raptors with a Mohawk hair-do. This past weekend they started stretching their wings a bit, so I’m looking forward to witnessing their first attempts at flight.

It has been an unexpected delight to watch this small segment of nature’s cycle of life happening right outside my living room window. I will be sad to see this little family leave the neighborhood when it is their time to leave the nest. (Susan in Concord)

Posted on Monday, July 31st, 2006
Under: wild birds | 2 Comments »

Puppy beating

What do you say when the Associated Press reports that a 19-year-old woman in Oakland was arrested for killing a 6-week-old Labrador retriever puppy on Sunday by kicking it and slamming it on a sidewalk?

According to AP, prosecutors charged the woman with felony animal abuse, "because of the malicious and intentional nature of the killing."

That is a very angry person. It’s unfortunate that a little puppy had to pay the ultimate price for her anger.

Posted on Thursday, July 27th, 2006
Under: Abuse, dogs, Pets | 7 Comments »

Cooling tips for hot pets

Please tell your readers to be aware that their dogs may want to go out for a walk or a run in the late afternoon or even early evening when it appears to cool down, but note that the pavement is much hotter and stays hot long after the air above has cooled. It may be comfortable 5½ feet above the asphalt, but at the two foot level, where your dog is, it’s still scorching. Not to mention their pads can still get burned. Thanks for telling people. (kristine, cyberspace)

I keep a bowl of water in the bathtub, since that is always the coolest spot in the house, and make sure the water in all their bowls is changed frequently through the day.

One cat likes to nap in the top box of the cat tree and the other likes to nap on my bed. I put the cat tree just a little to one side of the ceiling fan and keep a small fan focused on the bed. They can lay there if they want or they can move away and come back as it suits them. One spends much of the hot days under the bed, where it is cooler.

Get them playing in the evening. It may be too hot to move much in the heat of the day, but they still need some exercise. Of course, Saturday evening was still too hot, so they played on Sunday morning. (Mildred Kirkwood, Livermore)

Sunday, I found a way to cool down my cat, Boston, when the temperature rose to 87° in the house. I dampened a light cloth — just damp, not soaked — and cloth diapers work best. As he was sprawled just out of the direct flow from a fan, I spread the cloth over him, just as I was using damp cloths for myself. He happily stretched out and stayed put until the cloth had dried out. I wet the rag again and he settled back down for more cooling. (Wanda Peets, Concord)

Posted on Tuesday, July 25th, 2006
Under: Hot Weather, Pets | No Comments »

Do they, or don’t they exist?

According to a story by Associated Press writer Andrew DeMillo on July 20:

"LITTLE ROCK, Ark — A federal judge temporarily stopped construction on a $320 million irrigation project Thursday, ruling the changes could disturb the habitat of a woodpecker that might or might not exist."

They are referring, of course, to the much-debated existence of the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought to be extinct until one was reportedly sighted in 2004 in Eastern Arkansas. The sighting has not been duplicated and the debate rages on with some ornithologists believing the bird is still extinct, while others think it lives.

It seems to me the above-mention federal judge may have just resolved the whole argument with his diabolically simple ruling. According to the AP story, U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson said that "for the purpose of the lawsuit he had to presume the woodpecker exists in that area."

Does this mean that we no longer need to have real animals? That we can just presume animals exist in a particular area?

That would certainly explain the herd of elephants I heard grazing on the fruit trees in my backyard last night.

Seriously, Judge Wilson may have set an interesting precedent. Can we assume that instead of environmentalists having to prove that an endangered animal exists in an area where developers want to build a shopping mall, that developers are now going to have to prove that the endangered animal doesn’t exist in that area?

That could be a little tricky and maybe take a few decades to prove conclusively for each species. Or longer.

I’ll bet that’s going to make someone in Washington, D.C. a little unhappy.

I can hear him screaming now.

Posted on Friday, July 21st, 2006
Under: Developers, Endangered species, Wildlife | 1 Comment »

Hot days and melted cats

I found two new rugs spread out on the hardwood floor by the table in our family room when I got home from work the other afternoon.

The rugs were soft and fuzzy. One was light brown and the other black with fancy white markings in kind of a modernistic design.

It was a very hot day, about 95 degrees outside and in the mid-80’s in our family room. I turned on some fans to get the air moving and decided to try out the new rugs. I took off my shoes and touched one of my bare feet on the brown rug, my toes gently sinking into the soft, furry warmth.

Two eyes opened on one side of the rug.


Melted cat rugs.

On really hot days, cats melt onto hardwood floors so they can absorb every little bit of coolness from the wood.

The fuzzy black rug was staring up at me with two bright yellow eyes.

It was really hot.

"Move over guys," I said. "I want to make another rug."

Posted on Wednesday, July 19th, 2006
Under: Cats, Hot Weather | 1 Comment »

Birds like cool trees when it’s hot

Sunday, it was so hot where I live in Benicia that the songbirds in my backyard, except for a feisty male Anna’s hummingbird that isn’t bothered by anything, spent most of the day chirping and flitting around inside the little cluster of three 40-foot redwoods in a corner on the yard. I say "inside" the redwoods because the branches create a big green room in the space between their trunks when you slip under them.

I was curious if the redwood room was actually cooler than the rest of my yard, so I slipped out the back door about 2 p.m. to take a look for myself. I brought along a thermometer to check the temp and laid it on one of the branches that was waving around in the room. It certainly felt a little cooler, and after about 5 minutes the thermometer told me why. It was six degrees cooler inside the redwood room than it was outside the trees.

People are always asking me where wild animals go when it gets too hot. Well, here’s one of the spots. Trees. They get up close to the trunks of trees so they can take advantage of the insulating qualities of the green branches.

Posted on Monday, July 17th, 2006
Under: Hot Weather, wild birds | 6 Comments »

Invasive species in the Lily Pond in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

Ever heard of African Clawed Frogs? Those durable little amphibians are an "invasive species" (introduced by humans and competes with native wildlife) and illegal in California, but that certainly hasn’t stopped them from trying to move in.

A LARGE population of these voracious non-native frogs is presently infesting the Lily Pond in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Word is this invasive frog population has been growing there for the last three or so years. How’d they get there? Maybe someone released their illegal pets in the pond.

However they got there, the Lily Pond is now bursting at the seams with African Clawed Frogs and tadpoles and these ravenous amphibians are waiting to be spread to other ponds and lakes around the Bay Area (assuming this hasn’t already happened!) What makes them so dangerous is that they are resistant to most local diseases and they eat everything that moves. They also reproduce like crazy. Most important, they have the potential to severely impact and displace our fragile native aquatic wildlife.

The City of San Francisco and the California Department of Fish and Game have known about this problem for at least three years, and yet the frogs are still there.

So what’s the holdup?

Epilog: Eric Mills, founder and coordinator for Action For Animals in Oakland, and coordinator of the Lily Pond Coalition, just forwarded me a copy of an e-mail update he sent out on the "African Clawed Frog Problem at the Lily Pond." (See below)

If anyone feels inspired after reading Eric’s alert, feel free to drop a note with your thoughts to:

** San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom:

** The San Francisco Board of Supervisors: City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102-4689

** Ryan Broddrick, director, Dept. of Fish & Game: (his secretary).

NOTE: Eric would also appreciate it if anyone who writes to the above people could forward him copies of your missives (Eric Mills, Action for Animals, P.O. Box 20184, Oakland, CA 94620; Thanks.

From Eric Mills:
July 12, 2006


The players:
** Miles Young — consultant, Lily Pond Coalition. former DFG warden
** Paul Haskins — herpetologist/naturalist, Lily Pond Coalition
** Phil Rossi — IPM specialist, S.F. Rec & Parks
** Ralph and Steve — S.F. Rec & Parks employees
** Kam — gardener, S.F. Rec & Parks
** Eric Larson — Dept. of Fish & Game (Region 3, Yountville), in charge of the entire operation

A bad situation seems to be getting worse.

Here’s hoping that the powers-that-be can help to get this problem fixed, and soon, before these non-native frogs disperse. It’s been more than three years since DFG, the City of San Francisco, and other agencies learned of this situation. The obvious solution still seems to be to drain the pond, then humanely destroy all frogs, tadpoles and eggs therein.


Eric Mills, coordinator, LILY POND COALITION

E-mail from Miles Young — consultant, Lily Pond Coalition, former DFG warden:

Subject: Lily Pond 7/11/06


I drove to SF this morning to have a look at Lily Pond and the trapping efforts. The water is the lowest I’ve ever seen it and also very dirty. There is trash all along the shoreline plus the brush and other debris left by the workers after their daily sessions. Ralph and Steve were working hand nets and they had 9 traps working under inner tubes. Phil came down for a look see and was pleasant but I agree with Paul it appears he feels this one half-day a week trapping is useless. The water is so low the upper end is dry and there is beach all around the pond. The water was just above the knees of the workers. Phil and I discussed the fact the pond was now very accessible to the public and the workers were easily scooping up tadpoles in the nets. Not only that with all the signs of foot traffic and activity along the newly created beach it becomes a legal "attractive nuisance." Phil only stayed a few minutes and as soon as he was gone Paul Haskins arrived on the scene. Ralph and Steve said it was a big waste of time and we just need to drain it now while its down.

Kam the gardener came by and told me he’s starting to get complaints about the condition of the pond, i.e. looks like a mud hole and trash dump. He feels the City better make a decision quick about going all the way or filling it back up. I walked around to the west end and was asked by a couple what the men in the water were doing. When I told them they said they saw some young people wading in the pond the other day but they didn’t have more specifics. When Paul and I were standing there the duck ladies came by and said the pond needed to be drained to get rid of the frogs and then refilled so her ducks wouldn’t leave. While we were there a group of about thirty tourists from the peninsula came by, watched the activity, saw the frogs, asked questions and moved on. So much for low profile. If there is a "collector" anywhere in Northern California that doesn’t know about the ACFs in Lily Pond I’ll be surprised.

Eric Larson showed up and I pointed out to him the "attractive nuisance" problem and the fact the exposed beach and trash piling up is generating complaints. I also told him nothing is being done to kill the eggs and with the removal of adults, the cannibal predators, and only part of the tadpoles we should have a new crop of young ones shortly — kind of like growing a lawn, water, fertilize and cut it every week! Larson left shortly thereafter not saying much, he was in the area less then 20 minutes.

I took two rolls of pictures and Paul kept frog capture statistics. (Miles)

Posted on Friday, July 14th, 2006
Under: African clawed frog, Invasive species | 3 Comments »

Loss of habitat

Dear Gary,
What is going on in the foothills west of Dublin, north of 580? What a mess! The mountains are being transformed drastically. It looks like a strip mining area! Green valleys where hundred of old oaks once stood, are completely trenched out! Lush green areas in these small valleys are bulldozed to death. Areas where foxes made homes and deer would graze and rest, are gone. I’ve seen small deer standing on the freeway eating green grasses, forced there because of the destruction of their habitat.

Who did the environment impact study on this one? (John Braucht in cyberspace)

Dear John:
It’s called development. As it appears in Webster’s New World Dictionary, "development" is defined as, "a step or stage in growth, advancement."

Sadly, the words "destruction of habitat" don’t appear anywhere in that definition.

Who wrote the EIR for the project? Not the deer or the foxes or all the other wild creatures that got evicted one bright sunny day, just ahead of the bulldozers. Screaming is permitted.

Posted on Tuesday, July 11th, 2006
Under: Ecosystem, Habitat | No Comments »

Ferrets? How many live in California?

Did everyone read staff writer Denis Cuff’s front page story about the pet ferret underground in last Saturday’s Times? If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you should. You can read it right now at

Ferrets are illegal in California and Hawaii, but legal to own in all the other 48 states. Cuff takes an interesting look at how lifestyles of the owners of thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands (pick one) of ferrets in California are being affected by their pets.

Which raises an interesting question. Just how many pet ferrets do we have presently living in California?

Which of course, as everyone knows, means it’s time for another one of my quickie little non-scientific but always fascinating surveys.

To keep human owners of illegal ferrets from getting into trouble with the law, this survey is for all the FERRETS who are reading this. Please send me an e-mail or a letter with your name and the names of all the other FERRETS living with you and your human family, and the city where you live.

I’ll add up all the ferret names and cities and hopefully we can get a better picture of how many of you "lovable, clever, sociable pets" (ferret owner descriptions), or "dangerous carnivores with sharp teeth" (California Department of Fish and Game description), are out there reading my blog.

I’ve always wondered what kind of ferret following I’ve got.

My e-mail address:

My mailing address: Gary Bogue, Pet & Wildlife Columnist, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099.

Posted on Wednesday, July 5th, 2006
Under: Pet ferrets | 8 Comments »