DEAR JOAN: Animals have been turning over the grass in our front lawn. A chunk of grass will be sliced off and turned over. We think we're being visited by raccoons or skunks going after grubs.

We don't want to hurt the culprits, but we'd like to persuade them to go away. We put chicken wire over one area that was in bad shape, but the visitors have just started digging someplace else.

We tried "Shake Away" for critters, which contains dehydrated fox urine and is supposed to scare them. It didn't work. I also sprayed the grass very lightly with "Mole Max." This contains castor oil, which is supposed to repel them. That also didn't work. Maybe our visitor is a fearless raccoon who likes castor oil.

I got the impression that we can't do anything about grubs until April or so. Is that true? Do you have any other ideas?

Maryann L.

Fremont

DEAR MARYANN: The most likely source is raccoons, especially if the damage is severe. Wild turkeys will do general destruction, and skunks and opossums will dig holes, but it takes a raccoon to do serious sod rolling.

They are looking for grubs, which are the larvae of beetles. The bugs and grubs are most active in the spring through the fall, but the grubs will spend the winter in your lawn.


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If you're going to try getting rid of the grubs with chemicals or nematodes, you'll need to do it in the early spring. To avoid using insecticides, practice good lawn care -- don't over-water or over-fertilize.

There are almost as many "surefire" methods to get rid of raccoons as there are raccoons. Probably all of them work -- for certain people at certain times, so you may need to try them all. Covering your lawn with chicken wire or stretching bird netting across the lawn has helped many people. So has tuning a radio to an all-night talk radio station and leaving it playing, loud enough to spook the raccoons but not so loud it annoys your neighbors.

DEAR JOAN: I live near Bethel Island and have many animals visiting off the levee. This is the second year I've had this problem of an animal's scat left at the same area on my deck stairs, just a few small pieces but then around it a few mounds of something that looks like pomegranate seeds or berries.

It occurred around the same time last year. I cleaned it up and poured vinegar around the area it returned and left more. Then I cleaned it again and used ammonia. After a few days it was gone.

This year it started happening again. This time I used cayenne pepper, hot sauce, chili powder. What kind of animal is doing it and what should I use to get it to stop?

Could it be the skunk that roams around our area?

Bev

Bethel Island

DEAR BEV: From the description of the little gifts on your deck, I'd say you've got a fox visiting. The best way to keep foxes out is with fencing. They are very determined, however, so you'll need to bury the wire 12 to 24 inches below ground.

Make sure you aren't leaving anything out that will attract them -- unsecured garbage, pet food. With nothing there to interest it, it likely will move on to better eating.

You also should make sure the fox -- and the skunk -- can't get under your deck. If they find a nice warm spot to spend the winter, they will start a family under there.

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Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.