Residents putting water out for wildlife, but it’s not a good idea

DEAR JOAN: In our Nextdoor feed, a number of people are talking about leaving water for animals in containers near the street and in their yards. They have shown photos of deer and coyotes drinking from the containers.

I’m wondering if this is a good idea or not. Please advise.

— Linda Allen

DEAR LINDA: I certainly understand the urge people have to do good, and providing water for wildlife fleeing the horrific wildfires and in this brutal heatwave seems the least we can do. Actually, it’s among the worst things.

Animals that have been driven from their natural homes are first looking for safe shelter, then food and water sources. If they find the water in a residential neighborhood or someone’s yard, they’re going to keep coming back there and can become dependent on humans.

While you might not mind having a beautiful fawn sipping sweetly from your water container, how do you feel about a mountain lion?

While we accept that we live in the midst of all sorts of wildlife, it’s never a good idea to invite them to move in to our space. Inevitably, it always ends badly for the animals. They belong in the wild and providing for themselves, which they are extremely capable of doing.

By providing water or food, we can create territorial disputes, and by attracting smaller animals, we also are attracting the larger ones that feed on them. There also are many things in developed areas that are harmful to the animals, such as cars and neighbors who are not thrilled to have them there.

The kindest thing to do for the animals in the long run is to leave them be. If you need further incentive, it’s against the law.

DEAR JOAN: I live near a park. Suddenly we have a bunch of turkeys in our yard. I believe they hatched in the park and now think this is home. On any given day we may see 40 of them on our street. How can we get rid of them?

— Judy L Kiersey

DEAR JUDY: Turkeys tend to be a bit transient and as the year progresses, they will break up into smaller flocks and many of them will leave the area. Of course, not all of them will, and the question remains as what to do with the ones you have now.

Turkeys have a reputation for being stupid. They aren’t. One thing I’ve always admired about them that, unlike ground squirrels, they understand when they’re not wanted. To get that message across, you need to scare them off your property.

You can do that in several ways — beating a pot with a spoon, blasting an air horn or spraying them with the water hose. None of these things will injure the birds, but they all will convey a message of “go away.” Usually, the birds accept this and do exactly that.

Often, wild turkeys are attracted by the presence of food, most often spilled birdseed. Rake up the seed, install pans under the feeders to catch the loose seed, or bring in the feeders for a while.

If the turkeys are sticking to the street and not bothering anything except the flow of traffic, consider letting them be.

DEAR JOAN: I feed birds year round, which is very enjoyable. However in the fall, winter and early spring, the white-crowned sparrows cause major destruction to the vegetable garden.

Is there a seed mix that is less inviting to the sparrows, but won’t chase off other birds, such as goldfinches?

— Dave

DEAR DAVE: Before you put the white-crowned sparrows on your “do not serve” list, consider what contribution they’re making to your garden and yard.

The sparrow’s main diet consists of seeds mostly from weeds and grasses. In the summer, they also eat a lot of caterpillars, wasps, beetles and other unpopular insects. The damage they are doing to your garden may be pursuit of these foods.

You can try feeding the goldfinches nyjer seed. Avoid seed mixes with lots of sunflower seeds and cracked corn, and stay on top of the weeds and bugs.

Contact Morris at www.mercurynews.com

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