March 9, 2021

Disappearing goldfish: Who took them from a San Jose backyard?

DEAR JOAN: My wife has two half wine barrels with plastic liners, several water plants in 1 gallon pots, and three 3-inch goldfish in each barrel.

Recently she found the fish gone and the plants all tipped over – a total mess and her pet fish of four years is gone.

This must be a raccoon. Because the heavy gallon pots were all tipped over, I don’t think a rat could do that, could it? It for sure happened at night. What do you think?

Kurt, San Jose

DEAR KURT: Sounds exactly like raccoons at work. They have the strength and dexterity to accomplish the pot tipping, and raccoons love fish.

If your wife wants to replace her pets and keep them safe, consider netting the barrels at night. You also could place a radio nearby, softly playing an all-night talk station.

DEAR JOAN: I keep a hummingbird feeder out during the winter. There are hummingbirds flying about and stopping by the feeder, yet they do not feed. The feeder is not clogged and the liquid, a Lowes premixed product, is red and seems ok.

Why are the hummingbirds checking out the feeder but not actually feeding?

Mike Olson, Concord

DEAR MIKE: It could be the birds just aren’t hungry, or there is something about the feeder they don’t like. Make sure you clean it thoroughly and regularly and replace the nectar often, even if the birds aren’t drinking.

There remains some debate on whether nectar colored red is harmful for the birds, but in any case, experts don’t recommend it. Switch to a non-colored type, or make your own by heating water, adding sugar and stirring to dissolve it. The standard recipe is 4 parts water to 1 part sugar.

DEAR JOAN: Often, the silk flower arrangements left in the cemetery where my father is buried are stolen.

In conversations with the owners, we have discussed the obvious alternatives, such as live flower arrangements, but we also have discussed ensuring the safety of the wildlife in the area that could be poisoned by many of them.

Could you help with what plants, bushes, trees and flowers that deer, rabbits, squirrel, porcupines and others can safely munch, especially during winter months?

Pamela Upton, Saint Charles, Missouri

DEAR PAMELA: If it’s humans who are stealing the silk flowers, I’m not sure that live flowers will be any less tempting, but it’s worth a try.