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Pond Predators – Part 2 of 3

Pond Predators – Part 2 of 3

Pond Fish Care , Pond Maintenance & Care 🕔November 16, 2019 0 comments

There will probably be some point in time being every pond owner experiences- visitation from predator(s). These predators that are looking for tasty fish or possibly pond plants to dine on. This can happen any time of the year, so be ready to defend your fish multiple ways as some predators are  craftier than others.

When you are dealing with pond predators there are three main ideas to keep them at Bay: Protect; Deter & Deflect and Employ Habitat Deterrent Tactics. Click here for Part One  Click Here for Part 3

1. Protect- You pond may need a covering or physical barrier that protects the pond from predators entering the into your pond.  The most popular is netting- Even if you don’t like the looks of it, what’s more important- your fish alive or predators ravaging your backyard paradise?

2. Deter & Deflect– choose specific items that will help deter or deflect the animal scaring them away so they can hunt somewhere else. 

3. Employ Wildlife Management Tactics that relate to the unique habitat and environment in and around your landscape.

Alligator decoy deters predators and lots of vegetation help hide fish

In order to determine which predator(s) you have and what controls you need from your pond’s protection consider how the predator is entering your pond.

There are Flying Predators- Herons; Birds that Prey: Eagles, Hawks (N. Harrier) & Osprey, King Fishers; Ducks & Geese that may fly into or hoover over your pond. Herons land in your yard or roof, then walk into the pond.

Then there are the Terrestrial & Aquatic Predators- Raccoons, Opossums, Otter, Mink/muskrat, Frogs (Bull & Snapping), Turtles & Snakes, Cats & Dogs. These predators come from the land and walk into the pond, or in some cases can be born and live in your pond like frogs, snakes and turtles.

Let’s examine the predators, in order of popularity and what some of the best control methods are out there on the market.

Great Blue Heron is the largest standing over 4′ tall with a wing span of over 6′.

Herons

 The Great Blue Heron is probably the most popular but there are also other herons and egrets that could possibly visit your pond during the day and even at night. They fly into your yard landing on your roof or lawn and walk up to your pond. These birds have excellent vision and able to stand motionless for long periods of time until they strike using quick reflexes to dine on your precious Koi and Goldfish. If you have been visited by one of these birds you usually find no evidence. They are efficient and relentless- coming back time and time again until your fish are gone, or they are deterred enough to stop trying.Best Methods of Control:

  1. Physical Barriers- Use Perimeter Fences, Pond Netting or Floating Discs; Create Fish Caves / Tunnels & Hiding Places for fish inside your pond; Floating Planters that are low hanging in the water may help fish hide. I don’t recommend the strips of rope or monofilament line crisscrossed over the pond, 1. It may droop into the pond and fish can get stuck in it and 2. You will have to take it down to clean your pond at some point, so it is a waste of time, use netting instead.  
  2. Decoys & Deflectors- Decoys: herons (may or may not work- can attract them during the mating season), owls (help if they are night hunters), alligators (best choice), coyote (may be not), faux fish (can distract the bird). Water Scaring (Scarecrow, motion detector sprinkler, don’t use in winter), Sound (Ultrasonic) & Light deflecting devices.
  3. Deterrents- electric fence around the perimeter or spike strips. Habitat / environmental controls- landscape ideas- herons like clear paths and open spaces. Plant shrubs and trees around your pond and in the landscape to deter them from landing in your yard. 
Masked bandit that loves water!

Raccoons

This masked bandit may be cute and cuddly looking, but they can be aggressive and destructive hunters. They love water and can swim – but they can’t swim and hunt well at the same time. As an opportunistic hunter, raccoons love to dine on koi and goldfish as well as snails and pond plants. They will make a huge mess in the process of preying on your fish- knocking over rocks, ripping up plants and disturbing the plumbing. It will be obvious that you had been visited by this predator.    Best Methods of Control:

  1. Physical Barriers– Use Netting or Floating Discs. Create Fish Caves or Tunnels & extra Hiding Places.
  2. Decoys & Deflectors- Decoys: owls, coyote, faux fish- could help but not reliably. Sound (Ultrasonic) or Light deflecting devices are very effective and are a better choice.
  3. Deterrents- Electric fencing or spike strips on the outer perimeter may deter them. Live traps to remove them- catch and release them elsewhere several miles away, this may be a hard thing to do.  Habitat / environmental controls- do not feed pets outdoors or leave food outside that may attract raccoons. Make sure garbage can lids are secured and your garbage is emptied regularly.   

Birds that Prey

Eagles, Osprey, Hawks (Northern Harrier) aka birds of prey and Kingfishers can hover over your pond to catch your koi  and goldfish from the air. They prefer small to medium sized fish with some may trying to hunt larger fish which they may drop if too heavy. These birds will visit primarily sometime during the day light hours. Owls could potentially prey on your fish at night, but it is unlikely as most of the fish owls are not native to the Americas. Kingfishers are medium sized, colorful birds with large heads and long, pointed beaks. They are common along natural waterways but may dine on your smaller koi or goldfish if given the chance. Kingfishers have a distinctive rattling call and can hover and swoop into the water catching fish with their bills. Best Methods of Control:

  1. Physical Barriers- Netting or Floating Discs, Fish Caves / Tunnels & Hiding Places, Floating Planters
  2. Decoys & Deflectors– Decoys: owls, alligators, coyote, faux fish. Water Scaring (Scarecrow), Sound (Ultrasonic) & Light deflecting devices.
  3. Deterrents- Habitat / environmental controls keep ponds covered.
River Otter eating a fish.

River Otters & Swimming Mammals

River Otters are cute and playful yet voracious hunters. Once they have found your pond it may be tough to keep them away. There are others- mink, marten, fishers and beaver- but are less likely to be in a residential area. If you live near a river or heavily wooded area you may have these predators to contend with. Best Methods of Control:

  1. Physical Barriers– Use Pond Netting or Floating Discs. Create Fish Caves / Tunnels & Hiding Places for fish to escape into.
  2. Decoys & Deflectors- Decoys: owls, coyote, faux fish (can help deter while can escape). Water Scaring (Scarecrow), Sound (Ultrasonic) & Light deflecting devices.
  3. Deterrents- Use electric fence or spike strips around pond perimeter, use live traps to catch and release miles away from your house. Habitat / environmental controls if a serious problem then you may need to fence your pond.
Opossum aka “Possum” are commonly found in suburbuban neighborhoods.

Opossum 

These backyard visitors are opportunistic hunters and may be the reason why you have fish loss. They do like to eat your floating plants and snails, frogs or eggs if they find any. Usually not one of the main predators that will regularly hunt at ponds edge. Best Methods of Control:

  1.  Physical Barriers- Use Pond Netting or Floating Discs. Create Fish Caves / Tunnels & Hiding Places for fish to escape into.
  2. Decoys & Deflectors- Decoys: owls, coyote, faux fish (can help deter while can escape). Water Scaring (Scarecrow), Sound (Ultrasonic) & Light deflecting devices.
  3. Deterrents– Use electric fence or spike strips around pond perimeter, use live traps to catch and release miles away from your house. Habitat / environmental controls- do not feed pets outdoors or leave food outside that may attract opossum. Make sure garbage can lids are secured and your garbage is emptied regularly.  
Dogs can keep predators away from your pond!

Cats and Dogs 

These backyard visitors are opportunistic hunters and may be the reason why you have fish loss. Domestic and feral cats are more likely to catch small fish as they lounge by the pond edge. Wild dogs and water loving Domestic Dogs like Retrievers could potentially catch and kill your fish but it is unlikely. Dogs may actually help keep other predators away with their barking and scent in your yard could act as a natural repellant. Cats and dogs are usually the main predators that will regularly hunt at ponds edge. Best Methods of Control:

  1.  Physical Barriers- Use Pond Netting or Floating Discs. Create Fish Caves / Tunnels & Hiding Places for fish to escape into.
  2. Decoys & Deflectors– Decoys: owls, coyote, faux fish (can help deter while can escape). Water Scaring (Scarecrow), Sound (Ultrasonic) & Light deflecting devices.
  3. Deterrents- Use electric fence or spike strips around pond perimeter, use live traps to catch and release miles away from your house. Habitat / environmental controls- do not feed pets outdoors or leave food outside that may attract opossum. Make sure garbage can lids are secured and your garbage is emptied regularly. 
Be very careful when dealing with snakes, some may be venomnous.

Turtles, Snakes & Frogs

Unless you live in Florida, alligators should not be a problem but there are other reptiles and amphibians they may hunt and even live in your pond. If you suspect any of these predators, you will need to monitor them well in order to sneak a peek at them. Pond and Snapping Turtles could make your pond their home and eat smaller fish, eggs and fish fry (baby fish). Bullfrogs may also love to live in your pond and eat many of your fish as well as songbirds, snails and fish eggs. Snakes may be a bit harder to get rid and some are even poisonous so always use caution or hire a professional to remove them! These predators prefer smaller fish so they may actually help your pond balance by keeping your goldfish population in check. But if you do have any of these and you want to get rid of them, then you need to physically remove them and make appropriate environmental changes. You may keep snakes at bay with applications of Repellant or repeated applications of Clove or Cinnamon essential oils (out of the Pond, on land)Best Methods of Control:

  1. Physical Barriers- Cover the pond with Netting or Floating Discs- once they are out of the pond, otherwise you trap them inside the pond. Create Fish Caves / Tunnels & Hiding Places.
  2. Decoys & Deflectors- Sound (Ultrasonic) & Light deflecting devices may be helpful but not reliable.
  3. Deterrents- Spike strips, Live traps & Relocate, Snake Repellants around pond perimeter not for use inside the pond. Habitat / environmental controls (landscape ideas- keep grass cut short, keep shrubs and trees pruned up off the ground, remove piles of sticks & debris where they can hide).

Geese and Ducks

Canada Geese, Ducks and other waterfowl may be interested in visiting your pond and benefit from snacking on your fish if the opportunity arises. These birds will visit primarily sometime during the day light hours and may be seasonal dwellers. Not a huge risk as a predator, but their waste(poop) can throw off your water quality. Best Methods of Control:

  1. Physical Barriers- Netting or Floating Discs, Fish Caves / Tunnels & Hiding Places, Floating Planters
  2. Decoys & Deflectors– Decoys: owls, alligators, swan, coyote, faux fish. Water Scaring (Scarecrow), Sound (Ultrasonic) & Light deflecting devices.
  3. Deterrents- Habitat / environmental controls keep- ponds covered to keep them out.

Questions? Stop into our store- Nature Perfect Pond Supply- located in Tumwater, WA or email us at Nppsstore@gmail.com or ask Kerri at Kerri.B@natureperfect.net

Learn More About Wildlife, Birds & Mammals:

HerpMapper.org  About Snakes & Amphibians

References & Links:

https://www.thepondguy.com/product/learning-center-pl-article-how-to-deter-herons/learning-center-pl-predator-control

https://www.thepondguy.com/product/learning-center-article-pl-snapping-turtles-101/learning-center-pl-predator-control

https://pondacademy.com/how-to-get-rid-of-snakes-in-a-pond#id6Field Ecology Blog RSS

Questions? Stop into our store- Nature Perfect Pond Supply- located in Tumwater, WA or email us at Nppsstore@gmail.com or ask Kerri at Kerri.B@natureperfect.net

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