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No Easy Escape From Symphony of Frogs


Question: My neighbor has numerous ponds around his house that have, by his estimate, thousands of frogs living in them. During several months of the year they make quite a symphony of noises. Recently they have begun to come into my yard because I installed a fountain. Though I don't mind distant noises from his yard, the nearby sounds have begun to interfere with my sleep.

Can you suggest a way to discourage the frogs from coming into my yard and fountain? Would a fake owl do any good?


Pacific Palisades

Answer: Unless you can teach the fake owl to sing an aria to lull the frogs to sleep, count them out. Frogs have moist, smooth skin and spend their lives in or near water. And they're mobile, which means your neighbor's frogs are probably now your frogs. They need to live in and around water and won't survive without it. Use this dependence on habitat to lure them away from your yard by getting rid of the fountain, which will encourage them to return to your neighbor's.

Don't try to move the frogs; let them go on their own. If you're concerned about their not finding their way back next door, you're underestimating them. But you can assist them for a short while by providing cover and water for a few days.

To do this, place a medium-size clay pot turned upside down with a hole cracked out of the rim for a doorway. Though they are better known as "toad abodes," frogs find them equally useful housing as long as they're not placed in the direct sun, which will make them frog barbecues instead. Place the companion saucer filled with water nearby in the shade. Move both away after a few days, when the majority of frogs seem to be gone.

Though taking out the fountain may seem like an incredible disappointment, the only other solutions would be to net off the fountain entirely--which in my mind defeats the point of a fountain--or move it to another part of your yard where you won't be bothered by night noises.

Perhaps a small tabletop fountain placed strategically inside your house will provide the same soothing trickle of water--without the background singers.

How Can You Tell Tree Squirrels Apart?

Q: My wife and I have been feeding a group of tree squirrels for a couple of years and have become somewhat attached to them. The problem is that we're having trouble distinguishing one from the other. More specifically, we're wondering if one particular squirrel is the same one that we began feeding earlier on. What's the life expectancy of a tree squirrel in Los Angeles?



A: There are two types of tree squirrels in the Southland: the Western gray, which is a native species, and the Eastern fox, an introduced and rapidly multiplying one. The Western gray, however, is more likely to be found at higher elevations than Westchester, so we're probably talking about the fox squirrel.

Although they are classified as tree squirrels, each spends a considerable amount of time foraging on the ground for nuts, acorns, berries, insects and other organic treats. Fox squirrels are a rust color and spend hours jumping from tree to tree and tiptoeing along branches and fences. They're more nimble than the Western gray on the ground.

Fox squirrels, like many wild animals living in our backyards and neighborhoods, have relatively short lives. Estimates for longevity in captivity range between 10 and 13 years. In the wild, though, they tend to live between two and five years.

But before you assume you're seeing the same squirrels, consider that squirrels migrate to and from areas because of lack of food or overcrowding. If you have a sizable home range--between 10 and 40 acres--for such small critters, you may never get a handle on which is which. Perhaps readers with experience in recognizing or tagging squirrels will write with their successes.

To De-Skunk the Dog, Do What the Pros Do

Q: Help! My golden retriever has been sprayed by skunks twice within the last three weeks. I heard that tomato juice works to remove the odor, but after six washings, he smells like an Italian restaurant. Can you recommend a de-skunking solution for my dog?


Studio City

A: To really get the smell out of your dog, use what wildlife biologists and handlers use when they're sprayed, a product called Neutroleum Alpha. It comes in 8- and 16-ounce bottles. Because it's a concentrate that you dilute with water, the smaller bottle will probably be fine. Eight-ounce bottles are $10.50 plus postage, 16 ounces are $13.50 plus postage. Call (570) 476-6178 or fax (570) 476-6183.


Got critter queries? Send your queries to wildlife biologist Andrea Kitay at P.O. Box 2489, Camarillo, CA 93011, or via e-mail to Please include your name and city. Questions cannot be answered individually. For a list of Wildlife Bulletins that provide sound advice on homeowner-wildlife conflicts ($4 each), send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the address above or visit

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