Let wild animals find their own food

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A fox squirrel on the Copperhead Course during A fox squirrel on the Copperhead Course during the first round of the Valspar Championship on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Sam Greenwood

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Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to

Q: I play a lot of golf at the West Sayville Golf Course. A number of foxes reside on or near the course. Over the years, I have seen golfers feeding them, myself included. I keep a plastic bag with Milk Bones in my golf bag and drop a couple near them when they come out to greet us. My friends swear it's my red golf bag that tells them the guy with the Milk Bones is here. My question is: Am I hurting them by feeding them the Milk Bones? I know they are not dependent on humans feeding them, since I have seen them eating a bird or squirrel on a number of occasions.

-- Bill Walden, Deer Park

A: Whenever wild animals become habituated to humans feeding them, no matter if they are pigeons, squirrels, deer, alligators or, in this case, foxes, they right away learn that humans equal food and act accordingly. There is actually nothing at all in the dog biscuits that you are feeding them that will hurt them -- red foxes can eat just about anything -- however, if there is one thing that history has shown us, it is that wild animals tend to have a lot less drama in their lives if they live in fear of humans.

Whenever a wild animal learns that approaching a human no longer brings it harm, there is always the chance that it will approach the wrong human one day, even a child. So the answer to your question is that the dog biscuits will not hurt the foxes, but the process of feeding biscuits to the foxes may cause them or humans harm in the future.

 

Q: My little shih tzu is almost 2 years old and is a perfect, well-behaved, lovable little guy, except for this one issue: He has developed, over the last six months, an excessive anxiety and fear over any feeding dish or bowl. I don't know what has so severely scared him. He will only eat his food off the floor. In the summer, he will drink water poured on a cement patio and now eats snow. I have tried glass, pottery, metal, plastic plates, bowls and pans, all placed in different locations. He shies away, leaves the room and won't go near them. I have coaxed, praised, etc. to no avail. He will go days without eating or drinking if food and water are in any receptacle. He will just lay in his bed, shut down and become lethargic before going near any food or water in a dish. Can you offer any recommendations?

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-- Helen Joy Hilsen, Eagan, Minn.

A: My goodness, this little dog has issues. You really need to ask your vet if he or she knows of a good behaviorist (not a dog trainer) who can come to your home and figure out the trigger that causes this behavior and try to desensitize him. While you are at it, ask the vet if the dog may be a good candidate for one of the new anti-anxiety medications now available for dogs. These drugs may help take the edge off.

Meanwhile, you can sprinkle his kibble on a flat baking sheet. This way, it is not all over the floor, and try to spread some ice cubes on another baking sheet so that as they melt, he can lick the water off it.

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Last week, a reader asked me about the clawed frog she had for many years, and I replied fondly about how I also had a "relationship" with such a frog for a good many years. Much to my surprise, I got 23 letters, including the one below, about how happy petkeepers are with their African clawed frogs:

Just read your column mentioning the African clawed frog. I purchased one for my daughter when she was little (4 years old). We purchased it from Grow a Frog. It came as a froglet in the mail from Florida. The frog is now 23 years old!

We have the frog in a small tank. We put a coffee mug in the tank. The frog loves to hide in it. My wife feeds him those little frog pellets. When she does, the frog lets her stroke him with the plastic spoon. I do a partial water change every three weeks or so.

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The frog "croaks" occasionally -- especially after the water change.

We can't believe it has had such a long life span. It seems happy and content.

-- Steve Pagano, East Meadow

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