DEAR JOAN: For two weeks we have had unwanted guests in our yard. They seem to be puppies and usually appear about 6 p.m. to drink water from the birdbaths.

Are they coyote puppies or perhaps foxes? They have rather large tails.

We are worried that they might attack our cats or small dogs. Any advice would be appreciated. Should we leave the birdbaths empty of water?

Bob and Mariko Warmke

San Jose

DEAR BOB AND MARIKO: Those puppies are foxes. It's difficult to tell from the photos you sent, but I'd say they are youngsters, out on their own.

Foxes and other wild animals are drawn closer to developed areas by the drought.
Foxes and other wild animals are drawn closer to developed areas by the drought. (Courtesy of Bob and Mariko Warmke)

The foxes are a slight threat to your dogs, a little more so to your cats. Foxes are less likely to kill pets than coyotes, but it happens.

The question about leaving the birdbaths filled, or in putting water out for wildlife, is a difficult one.

The drought is making it miserable for wildlife as their natural water sources are drying out, vegetation they feed on is dying, and our irrigated landscapes are luring them in.

Whenever that happens, it can easily end up badly for wildlife. While someone may put out water for the animals and enjoy their visits, others in the neighborhood might not be as thrilled, and they might take action against the animals.


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Wildlife in urban areas also is at risk for death or injury from larger domestic animals, and from automobiles.

Smaller wildlife also can attract larger wildlife and territorial disputes can develop. Fewer water sources also means that when animals do find water, they tend to congregate in unnaturally large numbers, which can increase the spread of disease.

With all that being said, it still is difficult for us to turn our backs on them.

Wildlife experts do not recommend providing water sources for animals that aren't already a part of our urban landscape. Emptying the birdbath and leaving it dry for a couple of weeks should force the foxes to move on.

There are some folks, however, who will provide for wildlife. For those who do, be sure to keep the water and the container clean and free of bacteria. If you start to see illness, dump the water immediately and clean the container with diluted bleach.

One way everyone can help without increasing the risks to wildlife is to look even closer at conserving water so that the reservoirs, lakes and streams aren't as depleted.

DEAR JOAN: I had to send in my two cents worth on your column about the attack cat.

We adopted a bottle-raised kitten last year. With no littermates to teach her boundaries, she would bite my hands too hard.

What worked very well for us is when she was in our laps, playing with our fingers and hands a bit too hard, we would immediately give out a loud, high-pitched "eek" and withdraw our hands for a few moments. When we put them back in our laps, she would only gently nibble, which we found acceptable. She learned very quickly not to bite hard.

Hope this helps your reader.

S. Cohl

Union City

DEAR S.: I thought "eek" was what you yelled when you saw a mouse. Glad to know it works well for both a mouse and a mouse-catcher.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read her online at http://mercurynews.com/animal-life.