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Courtesy of Joann Kennett
Skunks are common visitors in our backyards, wandering about looking for food and water. As long as you don’t surprise them, or let them move in under a deck or shed, they’re usually quiet, well-behaved neighbors.
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DEAR JOAN: A few days ago, I caught on camera a skunk out front, right before sunrise. Not too surprised, as over the years I have caught strong whiffs of them.

Last night, just after midnight, my camera and light came on at the rear on my patio. I was surprised to see a skunk on my fenced-in patio. We have two dogs that we let out for quick relief at night, and I definitely do not want them to encounter a skunk.

I see that you can buy skunk repellent, but one solution was to have motion sensor lights, and as soon as the lights came on, the skunk did scurry away.

Should we be concerned and take measures or just be aware when letting them out back in the evening?

Mike, Fremont

DEAR MIKE: Letting dogs out is a concern night or day, especially if you know you’ve had skunk visitors. I’m not saying never let your dogs out — just that you don’t know what they might encounter. Usually, nothing, but it’s a good idea to take precautions.

Skunks tend to be nocturnal, coming out at dusk and returning to their dens at dawn, but you can’t always rely on a skunk. They sometimes like the daytime, too, especially if they’re looking for food, water or a new home. While the motion-activated lights work at night, they aren’t going to shoo away a skunk in the daytime.

Skunk repellents can work, but it depends a lot on the determination of the skunk. If they have a strong need to be in your yard, they’ll come regardless. The same goes for the lights. It doesn’t take long for the skunk to realize the lights aren’t really a threat to them.

The best way to keep a skunk out of your yard is to use a combination of repellents and lights, maybe throw in a motion-activated sprinkler and remove or minimize the things that could be attracting them, such as pet food, water dishes and cozy spots under decks or sheds where they can make a den.

Always give your backyard a once-over before letting the dogs out, especially at night, when they are more likely to encounter one.

Beaver festival

It’s time to celebrate the Martinez beavers with the 13th annual Beaver Festival, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at Susana Park, Susana and Estudillo streets in Martinez.

The festival, which includes a children’s parade, food, music, chalk art, stuffed beaver giveaways, a silent auction and even a salmon mystery to solve. The event celebrates a decision 15 years ago that saved the beavers that had taken up residence in Alhambra Creek. Their natural tendency to build a dam had caused street flooding in downtown Martinez, and officials were planning to capture and remove the creatures.

There’s where Worth a Dam, a group of concerned residents, stepped in, found a mechanical solution to the flooding and saved the beavers and their dam. In turn, the decision to allow the beavers to remain helped restore other wildlife to the creek and marsh — a win all around. Although the beavers left the area in 2017, possibly because the ongoing drought raised the salinity in the creek, other wildlife, as well as the spirit of cooperation, have continued to thrive.

Contact Joan Morris at [email protected]

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