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Ask the Naturalist

A bird? A bug? Something strange in the natural world nearby? Ask us and we’ll find the answer! And check here for answers to great questions you didn’t even know you had. Top questions find their way to top naturalist Michael Ellis, who writes a column for our print magazine.

What Do River Otters Do When the River Runs Dry in a Drought?

August 07, 2018 by Megan Isadore

A reader asks about the fate of a family of river otters living in Coyote Creek, which dried up in many places in the drought.

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Do Dragonflies Tease Turtles?

July 24, 2018 by Leslie Flint

A reader saw a dragonfly seemingly tapping a turtle on the head in the Sunol Regional Wilderness. Any ideas what's happening?

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Will the Salesforce Tower’s Light-Up Top Affect Birds?

July 10, 2018 by Noreen Weeden

Birds can become confused by glass skyscrapers and artificial light. What will happen with San Francisco's newest skyscraper?

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What Do I Do About Poison Hemlock Near My Yard?

June 26, 2018 by Michael Ellis

A reader has poison hemlock growing near his yard. What should he do?

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Does the Moon Phase Affect Frog Calls?

June 26, 2018 by Zach Lim

A Bay Nature reader wonders if frogs are less afraid of predators when it's a new moon.

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How Much Should You Worry About Mountain Lion Attacks in Bay Area Parks?

June 13, 2018 by Ali Haynes

Or should the mountain lions worry about us?


Why Did So Many Jellyfish Wash Onto Bay Beaches This Spring?

May 29, 2018 by Eve Minkin

Why are so many jellyfish washing up in the San Francisco Bay this spring?

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When a Plant Dies, Where Do the Nutrients in its Cells Go?

May 15, 2018 by Constance Taylor

Plants make all other life on Earth possible. But most animals don't eat dead plants -- so how do the nutrients plants create get into the environment when the plant dies?

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Are Baby Rattlesnakes the Most Dangerous Biters?

May 01, 2018 by Tony Iwane

People often say baby rattlesnake bites are more dangerous than adult rattlesnake bites. Is the conventional wisdom correct?


Are There Any Plants That Do Not Photosynthesize?

April 17, 2018 by Trent Pearce

Can a plant live without photosynthesizing?

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