Raccoon is probably pest making a mess


November 22, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to The Baltimore Sun

In nightly invasions of my deck, an animal gets into my squirrel-proof bird feeder, scatters seed, pulls down my suet cage, takes the suet, digs in my flower pots, destroys the flowers, and lastly defecates on my deck. I'm sending a photo. Please advise!

The scat photo suggests raccoon scat, though it could be opossum. Scat may change drastically depending on what the animal eats. Raccoons will repeatedly use the same site. They are extremely strong and can pull open even tightly wired suet cages. Hot pepper suet should stop the suet thefts. For more about raccoon biology, habits and controls, see icwdm.org/handbook/carnivor/Raccoons.asp. Or call the Maryland Department of Natural Resources wildlife hotline at 877-463-6497.

My co-worker brought in a handful of fall leaves from her shade tree. They smelled like toasted marshmallows. What kind of tree is that?

Inhaling the cinnamon-brown sugar fragrance of Katsura leaves can be a highlight of autumn. In spring, Cercidiphyllum japonicu m foliage emerges in a purple-red shade, then turns bluish-green for the summer. Fall leaf color varies from red and orange to yellow. A medium to fast grower at 40 feet to 60 feet, multi-trunked Katsura is low-branching but can be pruned up high. It needs consistent moisture when young and is virtually pest- and disease-free.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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