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I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too?

Q: I know herons are a common pond problem, but I think I have a raccoon around. Will it eat my fish, too?

Matt – Burton, MI

A: Bandit-masked raccoons are a familiar sight just about everywhere because they will eat just about anything, including your fish. Found in forests, marshes, prairies, suburbs and even cities, raccoons can be a nuisance around ponds and lakes. Here’s what you need to know to keep them away from your pond – and your garbage cans.

ID, Please

With the exception of 75-pound Bandit that holds the world record for “World’s Fattest Raccoon,” these nocturnal foragers are typically between 15 to 23 pounds and 30 to 37 inches long, or the size of a small dog. They sport heavy fur streaked in brown, black and gray, and have black eye stripes that resemble a mask. Raccoons have bushy ringed tails that grow up to a foot long, and their dexterous paws and long fingers make distinct prints in the mud or snow.

Sushi for Dinner

Though raccoons love to eat mice, insects, and tasty fruits and vegetables (particularly sweet corn) plucked from your garden and garbage can, the opportunistic water-loving critters will happily take a dive in your lake to hunt for crayfish, fish, turtles, frogs and worms. They’ll use their lightning-fast paws to grab both aquatic and terrestrial prey.

Tracking a Bandit

Raccoons aren’t exactly stealthy. If they’re prowling around, they’ll leave telltale signs around your home and property – like knocked-over garbage cans, overturned rocks and flower pots, rooted-through plants and disheveled yard decor. They’ll also leave tracks in the wet soil around the pond. And, if you’re lucky, you may even find a shelter or den made in a hollow tree, culvert, woodchuck burrow or under a building.

Evicting Raccoons

Mother Nature provides her own raccoon control in the form of coyotes, foxes, great horned owls and bobcats, but you can give her a hand in several different ways.

  • A live-animal trap baited with cat food or tuna will allow you to capture and relocate your problem raccoon.
  • The Nite Guard Solar® deterrent keeps raccoons away with its solar-powered LED lights. Activated at dusk, the red lights resemble a predator’s flashing eyes flash and cause the critter to run away.
  • Keep garbage cans securely sealed and manage other easy-access food sources, like cat food bowls and compost bins.

With hundreds of thousands of raccoons traipsing across the countryside, you’ll likely discover one or two (or an entire family!) living on your property near your lake. But if you use some wildlife management tactics like these, you can keep them under control. Good luck!

Pond Talk: How do you manage the raccoon population near your pond?

Protect Against Nighttime Predators - Nite Guard Solar®

11 Responses

  1. I had a horrible time with raccoons – it was like an open invitation to eat with my original pond. The steps where plants we placed were like a personal invite to step into the water and eat my fish (and shred my plants while doing that)! We trapped them every chance we could (humanely), tried netting, they figured that out, too – FINALLY had to re-dig my pond – straight sides, 5′ deep, with flat overhanging rocks. The raccoons could in no way get to my fish – and haven’t for over 3 years (I see their tell tale signs – like wet feet prints in the area I set aside for the birds to land and drink water). They did get mad and bite my flex pipe from the pump, but then gave up. They are welcome to drink, but not eat!

    • Thanks for the comment Jay – Glad you were able to find a way to keep your fish safe!

  2. I don’t have a raccoon problem but I do have a blue heron problem. Has anyone ever used a motion activated audible alarum? Seems to me it might scare them off and concurrently alarum people in the house of the problem.

    • Thanks for the comment – if one exists it may be a great option!

    • i tried the big expensive net w/frame over the pond, until heavy wet snows brought it down.This past year I went and tried the tall grass around my pond and put up those tall support stakes with long holographic ribbons, to flutter with breezes/wind. Hadn’t lost any fish to predators, though I scared the nearby family of raccoons a couple of years ago, by going out a few nights in a row when heard their chittering, and growling & shining a flashlight into their eyes, while they were in the trees. The foxes haven’t made their try yet, nor have any bears come any closer than passing by a quarter of a mile on their way else where.

  3. To tackle herons and raccoons I would recommend a water powered scarecrow. Mine seem quite successful.

    • Thanks for adding the suggestion- I’m happy to hear it is working well for you! The scarecrows are another option but several may be needed as the distance they can detect and shoot water are not long enough to defend an entire large pond or lake.

  4. I have been putting out dog food, water (and a few candies) nightly for raccoons for probably 15 years now. I have watched them bring their children around and also watched the children overturn several plants on the deck! They play like kittens. When momma or daddy made a certain noise the little ones dropped what they were doing and all dutifully followed the parent into the woods, no questions asked. At one point the 5 babies, once they grew up, would take treats right out of my hand. They especially love marshmallows! Their paw pads are so soft! They are very gentle while reaching for the food……groping around, all the while keeping their eyes on you. I had the back screen door opened a crack and was handing them the marshmallows when one grabbed the door with his paw and tried to open it. That put a stop to feeding them through the open door! I don’t know what generation we are on now but hand feeding is a thing of the past. I love to see their pawprints in the sand in the bottom of the watering pan. On a wet night they leave muddy perfect pawprints on the chairs and picnic tablecloth. So cute!

    • Hi Dorothy – Thank you for sharing your story. It is always nice to also hear about the positive interactions with wildlife as well!

  5. I use lightweight black (bird) netting on racoon paths to the pond. They don’t see it and are confused. Nite Guard sometimes works, if you move it frequently (at least until it quits working after a month or so).
    You haven’t lived until you try to pick up an angry 30lb racoon in a cage!! And you never have just one…

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