DEAR JOAN: I discovered a vent bent open that leads to the crawl space under the house. I pushed it closed, as it's quite flimsy, and I figured I'd find out whether the animal that pushed it open in the first place was still living there.

Sure enough, it had been pushed open again. I'm sure there are companies that I could pay to get rid of whatever is there, but I'm hoping that I can avoid that. Perhaps you may have an idea as to how I can scare it out before closing it up permanently. I don't want to trap it under there for sure.

There is access to the crawl space through a trapdoor in the floor of a closet in the house. I have no idea of how to get the animal out. Maybe it's too dangerous for me to try, but I thought I'd check with you. I thought of phoning Animal Control for advice, too.

Raccoons like move-in ready homes.
Raccoons like move-in ready homes. (Courtesy of Brian Murphy)

June

Concord

DEAR JUNE: It could be anything living under there, with the possible exception of an elephant. I think we can rule that one out. My best guess would be a raccoon, but skunks, opossums and foxes are den-swelling animals that prefer to find their dens move-in ready -- that is, they don't actually construct their homes but use what's available.

I don't think the problem is in getting it to leave -- it appears to go out at night -- but in getting it to stay gone. I would push the vent closed in the daytime, then spread some flour in front of the vent. The next morning, look to see if the vent is once again open and if there are tracks in the flour. You should have a set of footprints coming and going.

The next night, spread your flour again and check after the sun goes down. If you have footprints leaving the house, then you'll know the creature is out searching for food. It's now safe to block off the vent with a chunk of concrete or something large enough that the creature can't get back inside the den. You don't want to permanently seal the hole now, because there could be babies in the den as well.

Once you're sure it's out and you don't hear sounds that youngsters remain, then replace the vent with something much sturdier. As an added precaution, scatter an animal repellent around the opening. I've had good luck with Critter Ridder, available at any home improvement store.

If you're still having issues, contact the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District. They may be able to identify the creature and may help with the removal of a skunk for free, although you should know that if they trap it, they must follow the law and euthanize it. I know you want the creature gone, but I'm sure you don't want it dead.

DEAR JOAN: I'm moving to South Dakota and I would like to take my 12-year-old cockatiel. How do I transport her in a vehicle?

Cal Vosika

Pacifica

DEAR CAL: First check with your vet to see if you need a health certificate to bring her across state lines.

You'll need to set up her cage in a comfortable, secure area of the car, such as the back seat. It also means that as you travel, you can't stop off and leave her in the car while you explore or go to a restaurant for dinner. It will be much too hot to leave any creature in a car.

If you expect to stop at motels along the way, it would be wise to plan ahead and make reservations at places that allow pets.

Make frequent stops to give her food and water.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read the Animal Life blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/pets.