Predators and Predator Control
Unfortunately there is a long list of predators in Hampton Roads who would be interested in your fish. Fortunately, most can be dealt with without too much trouble.
Predators who will try to get your fish: Kingfishers, Herons and Egrets, including Green Herons, Night Herons, White Egrets, and Great Blue Herons, Barred Owls, Ospreys, Bald Eagles, Cormorants, Possums, Racoons, Otters, Minks and Bears. We can tell you what to do for all of these except the bear. You got bear problems, you are on your own. Many people think neighborhood cats are an issue, but this is extremely rare. Cats will watch the fish and drink out of the ponds but don’t like getting wet. Between Dawn and Jeff and the shop we have seven cats. Not one has ever bothered a fish.
The most common way of dealing with predators is to net your pond. This works well for all of the birds, somewhat for possums and raccoons, but not very well for otters or minks. When netting your pond you have several types of netting available. Bird netting is available at many garden centers and big box stores. It is a thin extruded plastic which tears fairly easily, lasting about a year or two. Bird netting usually has ¾” mesh. We carry the same type netting but as pond netting it has a finer 3/8” mesh. We also have available a heavier duty, longer lasting 5/8” mesh woven netting.
Netting should never, despite pictures on some packaging, be floated on the surface of the pond. As your fish eat they can injure their mouth on floating netting. Simply pulling the netting tight will raise it out of the water, though when leaves get on it they can sag it back into the water. We recommend either making an arched support or buying a premade one to lift the net up. This also keeps the net from interfering with your plants.
Two solutions for herons and egrets are monofilament fishing line, either strung as a fence about 18” off of the ground on the very edge of the pond or strung back and forth over the pond to form a grid of about 15” squares. Herons and egrets tend to land outside a pond and walk in. Even though they have very long legs, they can’t bend them well enough to step over something tall. However, if they are given even a tiny area inside the barrier to land on then they are in your pond. Stringing the monofilament in a grid prevents them from moving around in the pond even if they are able to get in in one spot. A monofilament grid will also keep ospreys, eagles and owls out. Unfortunately these solutions do nothing for raccoons, possums or otters.
For those customers who live on one of the local rivers otters can be a problem, and for some of our customers on the Elizabeth River minks are an issue. A small low voltage electric fence will take care of these, usually a single strand about 6” off of the ground. You can get these at Southern States, Tractor Supply or order through Lowes or Home Depot. Depending on the whims of our suppliers we will sometimes have them in stock ourselves.
For herons, egrets, possums, raccoons and neighbor kids we have had very good results with the motion activated sprinklers. They are one of the least obtrusive solutions, but have the disadvantages of needing their batteries replaced about every six weeks and cannot be used in winter when it is below freezing.
You can also use a professional wildlife control company, but mostly they are going to do what we have just recommended, though they can trap and relocate some predators, which you can’t do.