DEAR JOAN: Recently, we rented a house near Lake Tahoe in a community surrounded by woods. On the last morning of our stay, I took my two small dogs for an early walk about 8:30 a.m., and let them walk without a leash as the streets had been plowed from earlier snows and there was a 5-foot wall of snow on either side of the street.

There was no one around, and no car in sight, and as we walked down the street it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. As we neared the next corner, I suddenly heard the loud howls of what sounded like a pack of coyotes, coming from the woods right behind the houses. I became very concerned about my dogs, scooped one of them up and got the other one to quickly follow me as we turned and walked rapidly back to our house.

A coyote in the foothills.
A coyote in the foothills. (Courtesy of Brian Murphy)

Is it unusual for coyotes to be howling like this in the morning? Do you think the presence of my dogs could have prompted it? Was I right to be concerned about them possibly going after my small dogs, even with me there?

Regina L.

Martinez

DEAR REGINA: Coyotes normally hunt from dusk until dawn, but it's not unusual for them to be out in the day. I suspect they had killed or found something tasty and weren't about to let morning them stop them from getting a good meal.

You were right to protect your dogs and beat a hasty retreat. The coyotes likely wouldn't have bothered you or the dogs if their attention was focused on a meal in front of them, but they might have attempted to protect it.


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It's always a good idea to keep your dogs leashed and under your control and protection, especially in an area that wild animals call home. Hawks have been known to grab small dogs and while it was far too cold for snakes to be out, they can be a problem as the weather starts to warm. They crawl out looking for some sun and all it takes is a curious dog sniffing in the wrong spot to create trouble. Dogs can also end up injuring wildlife. I'm glad this was a happy-ending story.

DEAR JOAN: One of our neighbors has chickens and a rooster. I know having chickens in San Jose is OK, but I thought having a rooster was a no-no.

Mr. Rooster starts crowing most mornings about 6:30, sometimes a little earlier, and can continue crowing for hours.

We are within San Jose city limits, and other than talking with Mr. Rooster's owners, which other neighbors have tried, what can we do to return a little quiet to our mornings? Will code enforcement come out for the rooster?

Ellie J.

San Jose

DEAR ELLIE: In San Jose city limits, people can own up to six chickens, but they are not allowed to keep a rooster older than 4 months.

Many times, people selling chickens aren't good at sexing them -- something that can be difficult when they are chicks -- and so your neighbors may accidentally have gotten a rooster and are now so in love with the guy they don't want to get rid of him.

It actually will be to their advantage to do so, however. A rooster is not required for the hens to lay eggs -- only to fertilize them if they want to raise more chickens, and because there are restrictions on the number of chickens one can have, that doesn't seem practical.

If talking to them hasn't worked, then yes, you can call code enforcement or animal control.

Keeping roosters is against the law and while they may not rush out, they will eventually deal with the violation.

Joan Morris' column runs five days a week in print and online. Contact her at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.