Wednesday, 29 February 2012 10:54


Written by  Petlovers
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 Hi! Yep , it’s me Barkley again, Official PetLovers  Gardening Consultant . Now that I’m in what many call those “golden years” [where do they get that?], I try to keep most of my entertainments easier and in closer proximity.  As your dog or cat probably already knows and has mentioned to you in some way, this is not hard. There’s a lot happening right in your own back yard. Critters galore!

 We’ve talked about the coyotes in past articles and how they’re still staking claims on what was once more their domains.  But there’s skunks, possums, gophers, raccoons,  field mice, rats, ground squirrels , not to mention those flying objects [ok, birds]  that move in and out of your back yard premises at various times.  Some are not too pesky. Some like possums who eat rats, mice, and snails, actually help rid you of other pests.  Others can be smelly, dangerous and not to be trifled with. 

Perhaps in early evenings, you’ve spotted some of these like skunks traipsing through your yard or raccoons climbing up one of your trees. Adorable as those baby raccoons look, both they and the mom have razor teeth, are very strong, and can become quite aggressive. I know when I hear them in the yard, I bark from a distance …looking out through the patio door.  My human reports they can really hurt or even kill a pet.  Best deterrents ARE to make sure all garbage is sealed and pet food is taken up.  Raccoons can damage buildings and roofs so seal possible openings to attics and remove trees that give easy access.  And skunks,? Well one whiff and you know the deal on letting your pet out to chase them out of the yard…not a good idea.

 Perhaps the animals most discussed as on going back yard pests are the mice, rats, ground squirrels and my favorite ; gophers. Rats, ground squirrels and mice can chew your fruits, eat accessible outdoor wiring, sometimes enter your homes and make a general mess. As for gophers, they are the top scurge to the California gardener.  You have no idea how many hours the Jack Russell and I have spent waiting and digging …and digging and waiting. Despite the fact we are both varmint dogs, there has been little gopher success. But it does pass the time.

 One of the best all around rodent predators however is owls.  California Fish and Game studies report that a single pair of barn owls can consume over 2000 rodents a year! Barn owl boxes can be readily purchased and installed in your back yard to naturally eliminate these pests.  Some even come with infrared cameras so you can observe the baby owlets on your home tv or computer.

Observing the wildlife in your yard can be fun and keep you in touch with nature. BUT one thing to remember:  Wild animals ARE actually wild. So no matter how cute and helpless looking one of these may appear, they will not make a good pet for your household.  If you do find a hurt or abandoned   animal such as these, for everyone’s sake, call a wildlife rescue organization such as those found on page 11 of this guide. They will provide the proper care and keep you all safe.

The SD County Master Gardener ‘s Hotline  at 858.694.2860 or website at  www.MasterGardenersSan can also provide a wealth of information on natural ways to deter animal pests in the garden.

Wags and Licks from Barkley, Research Consultant on Planting With Your Pooch and Other Pets. For More information on pet friendly gardening classes and consulting go to or call760.631.7886


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