DEAR JOAN: A raccoon wanders around my yard, and I don't know if I should care. I have no pets, but could there be a problem?
It likely is attracted by my compost. Should I leave it some food, cover the compost so as not to encourage it, or shoo it away. I figure it needs some place to live, too.
DEAR BILL: Sharing your yard with wildlife is a personal decision. If the raccoon doesn't bother you and is otherwise causing no problems, I say let it be.
That means neither discouraging or encouraging it. Don't leave out food for it. First of all, it's against the law to feed wild animals. The only exception is birds. And before I get letters telling me how cruel I am not to give a hungry animal food, it's actually in the best interest of the creature.
Animals can become too dependent on humans for meals. They also come to identify us as food providers. They don't become tame, but they do lose some of their natural wariness.
That's not a bad thing when it's you and the animal, but it could end up costing the animal its life if it wanders into the yard of someone who doesn't want it there.
Raccoons can cause problems. For one, they create latrines that are messy, smelly and potentially hazardous to your health.
You also may be doing a disservice to your neighbors who do have issues with raccoons. Because of that, and because an unsecured compost pile can attract creatures you may not be so willing to welcome, you should cover or enclose your compost bin. It will help with the composting process, too.
DEAR JOAN: I was dropping off my neighbor at her house. As she got out of the car, she said, "Oh, there's a baby snake in front of the garage."
I got out of the car to have a look and sure enough it was a little green snake in a loose "S" shape that would most likely measure 12 inches if stretched out; it was the width of a pencil.
Our neighborhood has been plagued with rattlesnakes. Was this one? I have never seen a baby snake or a rattler that I know of.
Betty Di Mare
DEAR BETTY: Unfortunately, I can't give you an answer as to what kind of snake it was, but it definitely wasn't a rattlesnake.
Baby rattlesnakes are bigger than that, and they are a sort of mottled brown color with a large triangular shaped head.
Reptile expert Mike Marchiano says that of the known snakes in this area, very few are pencil thin as babies or adults. Some garter snakes can be dark olive green, although they usually have noticeable striping. Ring neck snakes, which have orange bellies, are typically olive green and are pencil thin. If it was a ring neck, it was probably a young one, but not really a baby. More like a teenager.
The rattlesnake is the only snake in the Bay Area that should concern us, as it's the only poisonous one.
Energize your teaching for the new school year by attending a free Educators' Open House from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at Lindsay Wildlife Museum, 1931 First Ave., Walnut Creek, adjacent to Larkey Park in Walnut Creek.
For more details, contact Melissa Strongman, director of education, at 925-627-2914.