There are many predators that love to hunt fish. And when we give them shiny gold targets to go for, it makes their jobs even easier. Two of the usual suspects in the missing fish line-up are the raccoon and the heron. There are others, but these are the two most prevalent in the hobby.
For the raccoon, you have to first remember he doesn’t mind getting his hands wet, but will probably not purposely go for a swim to catch a fish. He can be held at bay by the way the pond is designed. A plant shelf that is too shallow will help him snag a fish every time.
For the heron, things get a little more challenging. They are very crafty and smart birds and you should not underestimate them. There are many methods available to keep them or scare them away from your pond – from plastic heron statue replicas to floating alligator decoys and motion-activated sprinkler. These options to ward him off all offer varying levels of success for every water garden hobbyist.
In early spring, these birds return to your area and look for feeding grounds. As they fly overhead to see where the fish are, your colorful fish stand out like a fast food restaurant. Your first defense is to use a decoy of some sort, whether it is heron or alligator decoy. They work better if you keep moving them around the pond to fool the heron into thinking they are real. Herons would rather not feed in the same water as an alligator, and if they see that another bird has staked out your backyard already, they are more likely to move on to the next available spot.
As we move into summer, just like us, they develop a routine and may even forget about your pond. So the trick is to move the decoy about every three days in the spring and every couple of weeks in the summer.
Another decoy on the market is a motion-activated sprinkler called a Scarecrow. When the predator gets close enough the motion sensor will activate, and the visitor will get a quick blast of water.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to have fun with your fish, and to remember that all of these occurrences are case specific. You may never see a heron or raccoon in your backyard, your fish may be disinterested in your plants, and there may be no bullying in the pond.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky and avoid all three. After a season or two, you will remember what your life was like before fish. You’ll undoubtedly realize that the pleasure of pond fish far outweighs a life without finned friends.