This Best of Bogue column originally was published Feb. 17, 1999.

Dear Gary: Should we put out dryer lint and dog hair for the birds?

I've got all this lint and hair whenever I dry clothes, thanks to my wonderful black Lab, and I'd like to share the warmth. Any harm in doing so?

John T.

Concord

DEAR JOHN: Nothing wrong with leaving out nest-building "materials" for your wild neighbors, as long as you follow a couple of rules:

  • Make sure there are no thin threads or dog hairs longer than a couple of inches mixed in with the dryer lint. Thread and long hairs can wrap around the legs and toes of baby birds and cut off circulation.

  • Humans with long hair should not clean their brushes and leave their hair out for the birds for the same reason.

    DEAR GARY: When I went up on my roof the other day to find out why it suddenly was leaking, I expected to discover that the wind had blown off a few shingles. What I found was a year's supply of peanuts being stored under my shingles.

    Because I assume the wind didn't blow peanuts onto the roof, my suspicions are being turned toward the squirrels who have until now only been a noisy bother as they race around using the roof as a bridge between trees.


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    While I am a tolerant person and have done my best to graciously share my habitat with the local wildlife, between the skunks that are living under the house, the raccoons digging up my lawn and plants, and the squirrels that are now destroying my roof, I am at my wit's -- and budget's -- end.

    Can you suggest any actions that might make my roof a less desirable site for storing food and playing "Red Rover" at all hours of the day and night? I am considering adopting a few feral cats, but I wonder if the increased presence of outdoor cats might be the reason the squirrels moved their pantry upstairs?

    Susan D.

    Pleasant Hill

    DEAR SUSAN: The first thing to do is cut off the peanut supply. I know it's probably a moot point at this stage because the damage is already done, but you might also keep in mind that scrub jays are bigger peanut hiders than squirrels.

    I have a scrub jay named Mr. Blue that stops by the back door every morning for a free handful of peanuts. He hides them one at a time in the garden. Guess who is climbing up on his roof to check the shingles just as soon as the rain stops?

    Why don't you see if your budget can afford having an arborist trim your trees so the squirrels can't reach your roof?

    You're right about having a backyard full of killer feral cats. I suspect you may be a major contributor to your own problems.

    DEAR GARY: What has become of all the jackrabbits? You used to be able to drive down any road and see a few alive and also a few dead ones, too.

    A.C.

    Concord

    DEAR A.C.: The biggest problem is a loss of habitat in suburban areas. Jackrabbits need the open fields that are now filled with shopping malls and condominiums.

    As the fields disappear, there are fewer and fewer jackrabbits to be run over by the cars, until one day you don't see any at all, alive or dead.

    Curious world, isn't it, where we get concerned when we stop seeing dead animals?

    This is Gary Bogue's last column as Joan Morris' "Animal Life" expands to five days a week. If you have animal-related questions, send them to Joan at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.