San Jose backyard visited by a mysterious creature

DEAR JOHANNA: We have been feeding a stray cat for about two years. Until she got friendly enough to eat indoors, I fed her on the patio under a little A-frame tent, if you will.

There is a doormat under the tent for a little comfort. During the outside feeding we had other cats as well as a raccoon and an opossum eating leftover food. When she started eating indoors, this problem disappeared.

Your little milk bowl is still on the terrace. She usually sits under the tent and drinks the milk with her tail sticking out of the back of the tent. It’s cute.

Last week I turned on the light on the porch and saw a tail hanging in the back of the tent, but it wasn’t Kit. When I turned on the light, a small animal ran forward and turned left towards the garden and the back fence.

The animal was dark brown with short hair and a feline tail, but unlike a cat, it had short legs and was smaller than a small cat. What I found curious was that his tail, which was furry, lay flat on the patio while walking. It also had a mouse-like head with small eyes. I suppose it went over the fence.

I searched for California mammals online and couldn’t find anything that looked like it. Do you have any idea what it could have been? Could it have been a very large roof rat?

Art Cicorus, San Jose

LOVE ART: We’ll probably never know exactly what animal it is, so we can only deal with possibilities and probabilities. Let’s start with the rat first.

Roof rats, which are black with white underbelly, are about 20 cm long and have a tail of 7 to 10 cm. Norwegian rats are brown and 10 inches long, but with a shorter tail. The problem with your visitor as a rat is that rats don’t have furry tails.

A young opossum. (Getty Images) Getty Images

Another option is a juvenile possum. They have rodent-like heads and are dark in color when they are young. They also have small ears and short legs, but unfortunately their tails are more hairy than furry.

The last one on my list of suspects is a long shot – a river otter. A fully grown river otter can be around 2 feet long, including the tail, which is covered in fur, thicker at its base, and tapered. Younger self-employed otters are slightly smaller than the adults.

Although otters are aquatic creatures, they often come ashore to move from the river to the creek in search of food.

Of the three suspects, I’d put the opossum at the top of the list. Reader, your thoughts?

DEAR JOHANNA: We hear that birds are sick with salmonella, which is carried by pine teats and finches from Canada. It spreads at bird feeders and bird baths. What do you recommend?

Sheila McGann-Tiedt, San Jose

DEAR SHEILA: Salmonella, spread through the feces of an infected bird, kill songbirds in the Bay Area. While some wildlife experts recommend emptying bird baths and turning off bird feeders for three weeks if you see a dead or sick bird in your yard, others have taken a broader perspective and suggested removing all bird feeders by April.

In any case, the feeders and baths must be cleaned before they can be put back into operation.

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