Pond Preditors and Pests
Ponds are beautiful and offer a soothing feature to your garden. They also help restore some of the natural environment being destroyed with urban sprawl. A successful garden pond helps offer water for wildlife and homes for displaced native creatures like frogs, dragonflies and water bugs. Unfortunately, it also invites those native pests who would happily dine on your precious fish like raccoons, herons, egrets and other predators! Here are some tips on how to keep garden pond fish safe from would-be predators.
Build your pond with fish safety in mind. Avoid those steps so often shown in common pond designs if you have raccoons. They will use them to wade into your pond and help themselves to dinner. Build smooth, straight sides to the pond to make fishing more difficult. Raccoons don’t mind getting their toes wet, but they aren’t keen about taking a swim. You can also add hiding spaces for your fish to flee when the pond is invaded. Sunken milk crates and painted cinder blocks (painted to prevent the leaching of lime into the water) provide safe harbor where you fish can flee from those prodding little raccoon hands and the long, expert fishing beaks of herons and egrets. (Do paint anything made of cement with an acrylic or vinyl paint before submerging it in a pond. Otherwise, the lime in the cement can leach into the water and throw off the acid-alkalinity balance.)
Add some decorative discouragement. Fake owls and snakes can intimidate and sculptures of herons might detour the real things since they think the territory is already taken. (Herons are very territorial and usually will not invade another’s space.) You will have to move your sculptures and model critters every now and then as even the wildlife will catch on to them being no threat if they are always in the same place.
Try some kinetic defense systems. There are whirligigs, water squirters and light flashers you can set up around your pond. Some are motion sensors and display their scare tactics
whenever an invader trips their motion sensors. These are most successful after dark. That means the nighttime motion sensors are most likely to help with the nocturnal pests like raccoons. Be aware they will also go off if a pet approaches the pond.
Sometimes all these efforts are still not enough. Occasionally some individual pests are remarkably resourceful and need to be held at bay with a low voltage electric wire – raccoons being most likely to qualify here. It is best to set these mild shock-giving fences for activation after dark on a timer to avoid accidental shocks when people are around the pond. The electric shock is not harmful but it is definitely unpleasant! Also be careful of pets. Raccoons are surprisingly clever, so make sure you set the electric fence so it is not easily avoided.
Another thing that can be problematic with netting is snakes. Most snakes are of the good kind out here. Gopher Snakes and Red Racers may look menacing, but they keep the population of rodents down considerably. They’ll even eat baby rattlers. (Yes, we do have some of the bad kind of snakes, too.) Water does attract snakes since, like all living things, they need to drink. It is easy for a snake to get caught in a bit of netting. The snake will then roll its body trying to extricate itself which will likely only roll it up in the netting even worse. So netting tends to be a better choice to use in the autumn and winter when they keep leaves out and snakes are less active in the cooling air.another alternative. I do this anyway to keep the leaves out of the pond in the autumn. It isn’t very attractive, though. So you probably won’t want to use netting as a permanent deterrent. It is also a bit more difficult to use if you have actively growing pond plants that can grow shoots through the netting and become entangled.
The occasional predator is likely to visit your pond every now and again. If you try some of these tips, you should be able to minimize any damage. It’s also a good idea to keep your pets away from ponds to avoid any potential disaster for either the pet or the pond. With a little extra care, you can keep your pond a thing of beauty to be enjoyed year ‘round – safely!
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