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What is the best way to keep herons from eating my fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is the best way to keep herons from eating my fish?

Q: What is the best way to keep herons from eating my fish?

Jim – Milford, MI

A: Herons are beautiful birds – but they see your fish as their own personal sushi bar. Because they’re intelligent creatures, you’ll need to get creative when it comes to keeping them at bay. Before we dive into scare-away strategies, let’s learn more about them.

IDing a Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Herons’ range covers the entire North American continent. They’re partial migrants; they summer in the upper Midwest and Canada, winter in Mexico and hang out all over the rest of the United States all year long.

Sporting blue-gray plumage with a black stripe over their eyes and a thick dagger-like beak – not to mention a 6-foot wing span and 4-foot-long body – these guys are easy to spot. They stand like statues or walk slowly on long legs as they stalk fish and other prey in freshwater ponds, saltwater wetlands, estuaries, grasslands and fields.

In the air, these big birds fly with slow wing beats, reaching 30 miles per hour and at an altitude of 80 to 90 feet as they scan the land below for reflections in fish ponds. When they find one that looks appetizing, they’ll quietly cruise in and wade like feathered ninjas, waiting for their next meal to hop, walk or swim by. They’ll eat anything within striking distance, from fish and amphibians to reptiles, small mammals, insects and even other birds.

Herons prefer hunting, foraging and dining alone. In fact, they’ll fiercely defend their territory, putting on dramatic displays of dominance should a competitor fly in. They’ll throw their heads back, point their bill skyward and outstretch their wings, chasing the other bird (or human!) away.

Protecting Your Fish

Because of the herons ninja-like skills, you might not know right away if one has been nabbing your fish – especially if you have a larger pond. If your fish were used to being fed in particular spot and tended to hang out around the edge but suddenly stay away or loiter at the bottom, that’s a sign that something’s amiss.

So how can you discourage the birds from seeing your pond as their dinner table? Here are some tricks to try:

  • Use a heron decoy. A decoy like the Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy, in your pond. Herons are territorial, and so if they see that another heron has claimed the pond, they’ll keep flying by. Pro tip: Avoid using heron decoys during mating season, which is generally April and May but may vary depending on your location. The decoy may actually attract birds looking for a mate …
  • Create obstacles around the pond. Herons land around the perimeter of a pond and walk up to the water. Obstacles, like clear fishing line strung around the pond perimeter make access difficult by creating an impassable barrier that they would need to step over. Don’t worry: It won’t obscure your view of the pond.
  • Startle them with water. For ponds smaller than 1200 sq. ft. a motion-activated sprayer, like the Contech ScareCrow®, detects movement up to 40 feet away and spritzes the predator with water. It’s designed to startle them and scare them away.
  • Provide hiding places for your fish. Just in case a heron does find its way into your pond, give your fish a place to hide. Portions of submerged large-diameter pipe or beds of weeds work well, as does the addition or other fish habitat.

Experts recommend using a variety of methods to chase away these hungry birds because they will eventually figure out the decoy, obstacles and sprays of water are harmless. But be vigilant! Your fish will appreciate the effort!

Pond Talk: How do you scare away heron from your pond or lake?

Protect Your Fish From Predators - Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy

We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming?

Q: We had a snapping turtle around our pond last year. Will he snap at us if we try to go swimming?

Greg – Chester, VT

A: Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are large freshwater turtles that make their homes in ponds and streams with plenty of room and food. When encountered in the water, they typically slip quietly away from any disturbance – but because they can have fierce dispositions, it’s a good idea to get to know these shelled reptiles and their habits a little better.

Identification
C. serpentina has a look all its own. Resembling a prehistoric dinosaur, the snapping turtle has a large, muscular build with a ridged carapace (hard shell) that can grow up to 18 inches. They usually weigh between 10 to 35 pounds. Its most defining features, however, are its long, flexible neck and beak-like mouth that it uses to snap prey and defend itself from predators.

On the Menu
The omnivore’s preferred meals include just about anything it can capture and swallow, including aquatic plants, invertebrates, fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and small mammals. It’ll even eat carrion. In a farm or swimming pond, a snapping turtle might snap up some undesirable visitors, like snakes.

Night Life
A snapping turtle is mostly active at night, but it does venture out during the day to bask on fallen logs and scavenge and hunt for food. When C. serpentina is walking the terra firma, it can be aggressive, particularly when it feels threatened – and this is when you should avoid contact at all costs. A snap from a snapping turtle can be painful!

Remove and Relocate
If a snapping turtle is causing problems in your pond, your best bet is to safely and humanely remove it. Grabbing its shell with your hands is a bad idea; it can easily stretch its neck back across its own shell to its hind feet and snap your fingers, and it can scratch you with its sharp claws.

Instead, trap it in a turtle trap, like one of our Tomahawk Live Traps. The 32-by-18-by-9-inch trap made with 12-gauge wire comes pre-assembled and ready to use. Simply place it in the water partially submerged and bait with fish or meat. When you capture the critter, relocate it to a place that has a water body, food and shelter.

Pond Talk: What types of game fish do you have in your pond or lake?

Trap Unwanted Guests - Tomahawk Turtle Trap

The geese are really making a mess. How can I prevent them from using my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: The geese are really making a mess. How can I prevent them from using my pond?

Q: The geese are really making a mess. How can I prevent them from using my pond?

Dawn – Ripon, WI

A: Geese can certainly make a mess of a lake’s shoreline—and that mess is unsightly. The best way to keep that mess off your lawn and pond is to prevent geese from stopping in the first place!

One of the best ways to do that is to put up a decoy. They’re designed to dissuade the mess makers from choosing your shoreline for their home.

Swan Decoy: Swans and geese make similar nesting areas, but they don’t flock together. In fact, swans are quite territorial and aggressive toward geese—especially when there are baby swans in the mix. So when geese see a swan decoy, like the Floating Swan Decoy, they will fly on by to find a lake or pond that’s not inhabited by their grumpy cousins.

Alligator Decoy: Whether your lake is in Florida, Wisconsin or Oregon, your resident geese will scatter when an alligator decoy, like the Gator Guard Decoy, is deployed. Geese instinctively fear alligators, even if they’ve never seen one before.

Coyote Decoy: Geese (and just about every other critter) do not like coyotes. The 3D Coyote Decoy looks lifelike from all angles, particularly when the wind blows and moves its tail and body. Geese will spot this movement from a great distance and steer clear of it. Nesting birds and other rodents will not want to seek refuge anywhere near your property if they spot this lurking predator in the open!

When using decoys to deter geese, don’t forget to move them around every few days. If you leave them in the same spot, the geese will realize it’s a fake and move in.

Here’s a fun fact for you: Geese are flightless for one month beginning in late June through early August. They are in a serious molting period. So, it’s best to keep them away prior to being grounded.

Pond Talk: What are some other ways to keep geese off your property?

Keep Pesky Geese Away - OrnaMates(tm) Floating Swan Decoy

I see predator control options for geese and swans, but what about options for other animals, like raccoons? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

I see predator control options for geese and swans, but what about options for other animals, like raccoons?

Q: I see predator control options for geese and swans, but what about options for other animals, like raccoons?

Greg – Catawissa, PA

A: Overhead predators aren’t the only visitors looking for free sashimi from your fish pond or lake. Four-legged nocturnal critters like raccoon and opossum may also stop by for a snack. So what are the best ways to stop terrestrial animals from looking for food or water on your property?

The Predator’s Predator

Featuring flashing red LED lights that mimic the eyes of predators hunting and feeding at night, Nite Guard Solar® will frighten fish thieves and send them scurrying. The device uses an energy-saving solar panel to charge the lights, and an automatic photosensitive switch ensures the unit turns on when you (and your fish!) need it the most. Nite Guard Solar’s weatherproof construction includes a mounting tab on top, making it easy to screw to a post or stake for maximum effect.

Spray Them Away

Another option for scaring off predators is a motion-activated sprinkler like the Contech ScareCrow®. Though it requires a hose connection and battery to operate, the sensor detects movement in a 1,300-square-foot area and sprays water at unwanted—and startled—guests. The sprinkler head features spray distance adjustment, sprinkler arc adjustment and a low-energy trigger mechanism. The ScareCrow® helps to set up a boundary around your lake and protect its inhabitants.

Pond Talk: What’s the strangest predator you’ve seen visiting your pond or lake?

Protect Your Pond From Nighttime Predators - Nite Guard Solar (r)

Will my heron decoy still be useful since it’s getting cold out? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Will my heron decoy still be useful since it’s getting cold out?

Q: Will my heron decoy still be useful since it’s getting cold out?

Mary – Berkeley Heights, NJ

A: To prepare for fall’s and winter’s colder temperatures, you’ve pulled out your decorative fountain, positioned your deep water aerators, added your cold-temperature beneficial bacteria and performed all the other pre-season maintenance chores, but what about that heron decoy? Does he need to be put up for the season?

The short answer: no.

Realistic heron decoys, such as Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy, are used to dissuade birds from landing in your pond. Heron are territorial by nature, and when they fly by and see that one of their feathered cousins (fake or real) has already claimed the area, they’ll keep going until they find their own pond to fish.

Heron don’t hibernate, and so seasonal climate changes will trigger these colorful, statuesque birds to fly to warmer environments for several months of the year—which is probably why you’re asking about removing the decoy – but it’s still a good idea to keep that decoy in place.

Why? The foods that carnivorous herons love to eat, including fish, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snake and grasshoppers, disappear or become scarce, particularly in areas that freeze or reach chilly temperatures. As a result, these guys must find other ways to scare up some grub. They fly to a new territory (usually south) for a few months where the eating is good and the weather is warm.

In North America, herons’ range spans the entire United States and the southern regions of Canada, so chances are pretty good that you’ll encounter migrating herons passing over your lake or pond—and looking for some tasty sushi to spear. With your lifelike Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy in place, you’ll encourage them to move on and not stop to stock up on their trip south.

Pond Talk: How do you keep your blue heron decoy looking cleaned-up and realistic all year long?

Pond Logic® Blue Heron Decoy - Keep Pesky Herons Away

When Should I Put My Heron Decoy Out? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

When Should I Put My Heron Decoy Out?

When Should I Put My Heron Decoy Out?

Michael – Brenham, TX

Pond owners everywhere use Heron Decoys to protect their fish from becoming a quick meal. While using heron decoys can be a very useful tool for keeping herons at bay, knowing when to actually place them pond-side makes the difference between deterring a predator and attracting unwanted attention.

In the northern hemisphere the heron mating season generally lasts from April to May but can sometimes extend into early June. If used too early, your decoy will actually attract a heron or two as they will be searching for potential mates. Use your decoy at the end of the mating season to give herons the impression that your pond is already claimed. Since herons are territorial they will try to find a pond of their own and move on.

Placement is also important to consider when using the decoy. Herons are smart and patient animals and may investigate your decoy if they find it suspicious. For best results place your decoy at the edge of the pond and move it daily. Make sure the decoy is standing upright and not in any unnatural poses.

I’ve heard a lot about snapping turtles. Are they good for a pond or should just remove them? – Ponds & Lakes Q & A

I’ve heard a lot about snapping turtles. Are they good for a pond or should just remove them?

I’ve heard a lot about snapping turtles. Are they good for a pond or should just remove them? George – Duck, NC

Ponds tend to attract all types of creatures to your yard, some more desirable than others. With their large claws and strong jaws, snapping turtles may make the list of animals you don’t want in your pond. It all really boils down to why you dug your pond in the first place and how you spend your time enjoying it.

The snapping turtle is the largest turtle in the United States, living 30 years on average, their shells growing to around 15 inches, and normally reaching weights of 10 to 35 pounds. The largest common snapping turtle on record being nearly 20 inches long and weighing 86 pounds. It is believed some species of snapping turtles can live up to 150 years with some reports of snappers have been found with musket rounds lodged inside them from the American Civil War.

Snapping turtles tend to inhabit the shallow areas of your pond and will feed off of both plants and animals limited only to what they can fit in their mouths. If you have prized fish or encourage Geese and Ducks to raise hatchlings in your pond you may find snapping turtles to be a major inconvenience. These turtles rarely surface in the pond to bask in the sun and instead are commonly found buried at the bottom of the pond with only their head exposed. Because they are too big to actually hide inside their shell the snapping turtle relies on his sharp beak-like mouth for protection. Their neck is extremely flexible and is able to reach over their shells to protect their hind legs and tail. While their size and power may be intimidating they are not usually aggressive in the water. Rather than attack and bite potential threats they prefer to swim away and hide. That being said, there is no guarantee that you won’t accidentally provoke one of these snappers. If you swim in your pond you may not want to keep the snappers around.

If you have a natural pond and have no intentions of swimming or any special attachment to particular fish or frogs in the water there is no reason why these turtles can’t be a part of the scenery. They can help balance fish populations and are absolutely amazing to look at if you can spot a large one moving around your pond. If you decide that they need to find a new home you can remove them by installing a Turtle Trap. You can bait the trap with fish or meat from your home and place the trap in the shallow areas of your pond. You don’t want the turtle to drown so keep the top of the cage exposed and out of the water. When you catch a turtle be sure to use thick working gloves to protect your hands from potential bites or scratches. Pull the cage from the pond and transport the turtle to another location. As they are known to travel far distances over land you will want to relocate them a few miles away from your pond or they may find their way back. Never try to catch snapping turtles using hooks as they tend to swallow food whole. If they ingest a hook you will be unable to remove it and possibly injure the turtle.

POND TALK: Did you find snapping turtles in your pond? Do you love them or hate them and why?

Keep those fish safe from predators!

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