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Archive for October, 2010

Halloween: How to keep your pets safe on this spooky holiday

Jack-O-Lantern with bird design face by John (road kill) Osborn, Martinez, CA. More great Osborn designs at
pumpkinbird john osborn mtz

**NOTE: The Point Isabel Dog Owners group is sponsoring its free Barktoberfest Halloween event tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 30) at the west end of Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond, CA, from 1-3 p.m. People are invited to bring their costumed dogs for a short parade along S.F. Bay, followed by a costume contest with prizes donated by local dog-loving businesses. If it rains, the event’s tentative new date is Sunday (Oct. 31). You can check for details.

Spare Your Pet the Spooks this Halloween

Tips from The Humane Society of the United States for a Safe Holiday

While Halloween can be a good time for children and adults alike, The HSUS is reminding pet owners that this haunting holiday may be too scary for your pet. Companion animals aren’t used to all the doorbell-ringing, costumed creatures and general hustle-and-bustle that come into our homes at this time of year.

“For your pet’s comfort and safety, the best thing that you can do is to make sure that they have a stress-free holiday,” according to Adam Goldfarb, director of the Pets at Risk program for The Humane Society of the United States. “The noises, smells and people can be overwhelming for many pets on Halloween, so create a safe haven in one room of your home where he or she can quietly relax.”
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Posted on Friday, October 29th, 2010
Under: Halloween | No Comments »

Happy Halloween: BOO!

BOO! Happy Halloween! Photo by Lois Bogue, Benicia, CA


Happy Halloween, everyone! /Gary

Posted on Thursday, October 28th, 2010
Under: Halloween | 2 Comments »

Squirrels: Why do they keep digging in my flowerpots?

Squirrel digging in flowerpot. Photo by Mike Gordon, Walnut Creek, CA.
squirreldig mike gordon wc

Why do squirrels dig? They aren’t planting any nuts. There is nothing in the pot but dirt, but yet they dig and dig. There is dirt all over the deck and plants are getting destroyed! Why?
Mike Gordon, Walnut Creek, CA

Sometimes when squirrels see freshly turned dirt … anywhere, on your lawn, in pots …  it stimulates them to dig to see if anything tasty has been buried there. Squirrels and jays are always uncovering and stealing seeds, etc., that they see each other burying.  Other times, they just make the rounds of your yard, checking out what’s in the pots to see if there’s anything edible. They do this especially in fall, when it’s starting to get cold (winter’s coming!). Yours is the third note I’ve received this week on this subject. My own backyard squirrel broke 2 of my wife’s pots and she’s (my wife) not a happy trooper.

Squirrels hate the smell of vinegar, so spraying a little apple cider vinegar around the edges and on the outsides of your pots MIGHT back them off (there are always exceptions). I wouldn’t spray inside the pots because I don’t know what effects vinegar might have on your plants. Let me know how it works. /Gary

Squirrel digging in flowerpot. Photo by Mike Gordon, Walnut Creek, CA.
squirreldig2 mike gordon wc

Posted on Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
Under: fox squirrel, Squirrels | No Comments »

Gopher snakes: This is what they look like

Gopher snake in backyard. Photo by Ling Lavezzoli, Walnut Creek, CA.
gopher john lavezzoli wc

The other day on a warm afternoon my wife came across about a foot long snake on our concrete patio.  She is very curious as to what type of snake it is, how big it will get and if it is dangerous (see attached photos).  Thanks for your help as I am snake dumb. Appreciate your time and informative column.
John Lavezzoli, Walnut Creek, CA

The snake is a beautiful and harmless gopher snake. It might gain another foot or two in length over the years, but that’s about the average size we see around here. Great to have in the yard as they eat insects and small rodents. Definitely not dangerous. When frightened, they will coil up, buzz their tails to make them look a little like a rattlesnake so you’ll go away and leave them alone. (Note the pointy tail; no rattles.) They will also flatten their heads and hiss and strike (harmlessly) at you. Rattlesnake do not hiss loudly like that. /Gary

Gopher snake in backyard. Photo by Ling Lavezzoli, Walnut Creek, CA.
gopher2 john lavezzoli wc

Posted on Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
Under: Gopher snake, Snakes | 3 Comments »

Western Pond turtles do Yoga: Practice Upward Facing Turtle pose

Western pond turtle. Photo by Joanne Smith, Union City, CA.
west pond joanne smith union city

I found this guy in the middle of a hiking trail at Sunol Regional Park, CA. I thought he might be a tortoise but apparently there aren’t any tortoises native to this area. Do you know what he is?

The others were taken the same day while they were sunning on a branch in a pond. They are probably drying out their neck creases, but I like to think they are practicing the “Upward facing turtle” pose in yoga.
Joanne Smith, Union City, CA.
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Posted on Monday, October 25th, 2010
Under: Turtles, Western pond turtle | 1 Comment »

Mama wolf spiders carry their babies on their backs

Mama wolf spider with babies on her abdomen. Photo by Cynthia Tubbs, Pleasant Hill, CA.
wolf cynthia tubbs phill

My friends and family didn’t believe me when I told them our giant (wolf?) spiders carry their babies on their backs. I first saw this several years ago, when I accidentally killed a large spider inside my home, and all these little spiders scattered off her back. Now this afternoon, I saw it again, and she was good enough to wait as I snapped a few photos! I can count 9 babies. Isn’t she lovely!!
Cynthia Tubbs, Pleasant Hill, CA

Wolf spiders are among my favorite spiders. When I was in high school, I had a wolf spider I named “Harry” that lived under the dresser in my bedroom. About an inch long, these harmless (to people) spiders are handy to have around the house because they eat a lot of bugs they find there. They’re called wolf spiders because they roam around the house and countryside looking for prey to eat.

The female wolf spider spins her egg sac and carries it around with her until the baby spiders hatch from the eggs inside the sac. The babies climb up on mama’s back and ride around with her until they’re ready to take off on their own and tackle the big, wide world around them. Pretty neat. Looks to me like there may be more than 9 baby spiders on mama’s back in your photos. /Gary

Mama wolf spider with babies on her abdomen. Photo by Cynthia Tubbs, Pleasant Hill, CA.
wolf2 cynthia tubbs phill

Posted on Friday, October 22nd, 2010
Under: Spiders, Wolf spider | 2 Comments »

Tarantulas: It’s spider time on Mount Diablo

Tarantula on Mount Diablo. Photo by Ray Mengel, Bay Point, Ca.
tarantula ray mengel

I thought you might be interested in a recent tarantula photo I took on Mount Diablo on October 1. Cheers.
Ray Mengel, Bay Point, CA

Hi Ray:
Always good to get one of your always beautiful tarantula photos from Mount Diablo.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the best time of year to see tarantulas in the wild and Mount Diablo is the BEST place to see one of these big, beautiful (and gentle!) spiders. Male tarantulas come out in the fall, in great numbers after the first fall rain, to search for female tarantulas. Lucky (??) males who find females will get a chance to breed before the big female spiders sometimes kill and eat them. Hey, it’s a tarantula thing.

Drive carefully when you go up the mountain to see them. There’s often a lot of those big spiders crawling across the road. When you stop to take a look, treat them gently. They’re actually quite fragile. Yes, they can bite, but it takes a lot to provoke them. The bite, I can tell you from first-hand experience, is about like a bee sting. Have fun! /Gary

Posted on Thursday, October 21st, 2010
Under: Mount Diablo, Spiders, Tarantulas | 1 Comment »

Squirrels are eating my Halloween pumpkin!!

Squirrel “pumpkin diving” and eating. (Photo by Maureen in Lafayette, CA)
punkin squirrel2 maureen owens lafayette

Squirrels Eating My Pumpkin!!!
Are we in for a long, hard winter? The squirrels don’t usually start snacking on my pumpkins until AFTER Halloween!
Maureen in Lafayette

Looks to me like that squirrel is just getting an early start on trick or treating to make sure it beats out the other trick or treating squirrels in your neighborhood.

I used to have the same problem until I started planting 10-foot-tall sunflowers in my backyard garden.
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Posted on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Under: fox squirrel, Squirrels | No Comments »

Hummingbird & preying mantis: Guess who came to dinner?

Preying mantis and hummingbird at feeder. Photo by Robin van der Bijl, Clayton, CA


Hi Gary:
I looked out the kitchen window this morning and saw this praying mantis. I went out to take a closer look and saw he was chomping on a bee. I went in to get the camera and the little hummingbird joined him about the same time. Aren’t they cute?
Robin van der Bijl, Clayton, CA.

Hi Robin:
They are cute … but the hummingbird is probably wise to stay on the other side of the feeder. I saw another photo once upon a time where a very large preying mantis was eating a very small hummingbird. It’s a jungle out there! /Gary

Preying mantis eating bee. Photo by Robin van der Bijl, Clayton, CA
mantis and bee

Posted on Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
Under: hummingbirds, Preying mantis | 1 Comment »