DEAR JOAN: I have a couple of large cardboard boxes in my backyard holding composting materials. They have been there since last summer. Twice now I have seen a squirrel sitting on the box ripping pieces out of it. He shows no interest in the contents, just the box. Have you ever heard of this squirrel behavior?
I can't tell if he's eating the cardboard, but he seems to be having fun ripping pieces out. It's funny to watch.
I sometimes put out acorns collected on walks, or peanuts in the front yard, but I never feed squirrels in the backyard.
DEAR FRANCI: I think
DEAR JOAN: For more than 20 years I've had a roll of paper towels on the bottom shelf of my barbecue, which has a cover over it. This morning I looked out to the patio and found the roll of towels totally torn up and scattered all over the place. It was something with large teeth as there were teeth marks on the last of the remaining roll. Some critter looking for materials for a nest? Rat, opossum, raccoon? Any idea?
DEAR ROGER: All of the above and a few more. It is only a couple of days until spring and mating season is already going strong. That means
My first guess would be a rat, as they are the most attracted to paper for their nests. But opossums, raccoons, squirrels and skunks also are likely candidates. It might even have been a stray cat playing around.
Whatever shredded your paper towels was either looking for nesting materials or smelled something tasty on the roll. If it was something looking for food, the options increase even more.
You might want to keep those paper towels inside from now on.
DEAR JOAN: I wrote you awhile back, complaining about raccoons tearing up our front lawn for grubs, wondering how I could stop them. Well, we found out why the deterrents we tried (dehydrated coyote urine) didn't work: It was crows. I caught them in the act.
It all fits, because my husband said he'd leave for work in the morning with everything fine and come home at lunchtime to see more damage done. It seemed unlikely that raccoons would do that during the day.
The solution was easy. We hung up a fake great-horned owl and so far it's working. I'm just worried that at some point the crows will figure out that Mr. Owl is a fake. But for the meantime it works.
DEAR MARYANN: Do you have a lot of squirrels in your neighborhood? I'm thinking the crows may have an accomplice in the destruction. The squirrels could be hiding nuts in your lawn and the very clever crows could be digging them back up as well as looking for grubs and bugs.
I'm glad Mr. Owl is working, but history says it won't be for long. A better choice -- and one that will have your neighbors forking over all those casserole dishes and power tools they borrowed and never returned -- would be to hang a fake "dead" crow upside down with its wings open. These are easier to find closer to Halloween, but they are said to have lasting influence.
Hanging mylar ribbons or shiny CDs can also help keep them out of the yard.
Playing distress calls of crows also tend to freak them out, send them off to somewhere else. You can find free downloads online.
Joan Morris' column runs five days a week in print and online. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.