Feeding the crows. Is the San Jose resident breaking the law?

Dear JOAN: My next door neighbor is feeding the crows peanuts and cat food and the problem is that these crows eat that food on my property and make a big mess of our cars and driveway.

Is it legal and what can we do to prevent this from happening?

Jim Albert, San Jose

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Dear Jim: Technically, your neighbor is breaking the law, but you shouldn’t expect the bird police to knock on the door and make an arrest.

State and federal laws prohibit the harassment of any wild animal, from bears to finches. The laws define harassment as any intentional act that disrupts the natural behavior of animals, and that includes feeding them.

When it comes to feeding the birds, however, most officials look the other way, because there is nothing in the act that is altering the bird’s natural behavior.

You can try reporting your neighbor to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, but it’s doubtful you’ll get much satisfaction. DFW will act in cases where the number of birds attracted to a yard is excessive or the food itself is causing damage. This does not seem like such a case.

If you’ve asked your neighbor to stop or change the food (cat food is not a good choice for any animal other than a cat) and they’ve refused, there’s always small claims court. You would need to prove that the crows are causing damage to your property or your right to enjoy your garden in peace.

You might have better luck trying to scare crows out of your yard. The best way to do this is to get a fake crow and, under cover of darkness, hang it upside down in a prominent spot in your yard where the crows are sure to see it when the sun comes up. I have heard from many people who have tried it with success.

Dear JOAN: We have been feeding a stray cat for several years. There have been no problems until the last few months.

We usually feed it in the yard right in front of the sliding door. Sometimes there are flies or other insects that invade their food, and at night sometimes other critters find their food dish, but generally this works out well. Lately, though, we’ve had an invasion of ants finding food for him, day or night.

For a while, we thought we had this problem solved by feeding her inside. We have a mat right inside the sliding door and we fed him there. Unfortunately, the ants got smart and now they come into your house and swarm your food dish.

Our dilemma is how to treat them without putting harmful chemicals in the cat’s path. We tested the new bug killer called Zevo, which is supposed to be harmless to people and pets. It definitely kills the ants, but they keep coming back.

Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this situation?

Art, San Jose

Dear ART: I hope when you say the ants keep coming back, you don’t mean the dead ones. He couldn’t handle zombie ants.

I would suggest placing the food dish in the center of a shallow pan filled with water, which the ants cannot or will not cross. Make sure the plate doesn’t touch the sides of the pan, but is close enough to allow the cat to reach the food without getting its paws wet.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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