DEAR JOAN: Last autumn while walking in Almond Avenue Park in Livermore, I noticed on the ground little nest-like domes made from the dead pine needles under and around the redwood trees.
They were several inches wide, dome-shaped with a small opening in the front and both old and fresh pine needles scattered around them. Many had large dirt areas near them where it appeared an animal had used its paws to collect the pines.
At first I believed some children might have made them while waiting for siblings during soccer practice. I had never seen these before in the 23 years I've lived in the neighborhood. My dog was attracted to the scent and dug into them, but the next morning on our walk, I would find the nest reconstructed.
By winter, these nests became much larger, up to about 4 feet in diameter with many small openings throughout. I tried to carefully dissect a few, but never found any traces of rodents or animals in them. Some also had small bits of paper, thread and cloth woven among the pine needles.
This area is heavily populated with squirrels, raccoons and roof rats. My guess is these are rat nests, but why would they be constructed each night and abandoned by early morning, sometimes even before sunrise? The dirt patches look as if a larger animal collected the pine needles, but the nests are too small for a squirrel or raccoon.
I am pleading for you to put my mind at rest from trying to figure out what these are.
DEAR MO: You and your dog have discovered pack rat nests.
If left undisturbed, the nests can turn into mansions with dozens of "rooms." Some will contain food for the winter, some bits of stuff the pack rat has collected and, if you dig deep enough, a nursery and other living chambers.
Don't dig into them, though. The nests may have been empty because the pack rats were out hunting. More likely, they heard you and your dog approaching and hid in deeper chambers or in a nest next door.
DEAR JOAN: I'm familiar with the de-skunking formula you published recently, but I'm wondering with a medium-sized dog (48 pounds), how far will 2 quarts of hydrogen peroxide go in washing the animal? Or, is the mixture simply to be sponged over the animal's coat? There's no way that small amount of liquid would begin to actually "wash" my dog.
There appears to be several families of skunks in and around my property so I'm prepared with the ingredients but not sure how to use it, being such a small quantity of liquid.
I have another question. I've been feeding some mourning doves, which I love, and wonder about their nesting habits. Do they nest on the ground? If so, it is under bushes or trees? Do they build an actual nest or just "nest" in a pile of leaves, or such?
DEAR AUDREY: You can always make the formula in larger amounts by doubling ingredients. Basically, you want to put your dog in a tub and pour the mixture over him, drenching him, rather than filling a tub with it and using it like a true bath.
I sincerely hope you never have to use it.
Mourning doves have the well-deserved reputation of being the worst nest builders ever. They will gather a couple of twigs and call it a day, so you are likely to find them anywhere, on anything, and of very little quality.
Joan Morris' column runs five days a week in print and online. Contact her at email@example.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.