by Mandy Anders
Ponds, unlike aquariums, are greatly influenced by their environment. While aquariums are more controlled environments protected from temperature fluctuations and weather changes, ponds are subject to many environmental factors. One such factor is predation. Ponds, with their clear, clean water and brightly colored fish look like easy-to-spot buffets to many types of wildlife. But, never fear, pond owners can take action to protect their ponds from many common predators.
Many pond owners think their pond is too far away from a water source to be at risk of predation from water birds or other aquatic and amphibious critters. This is a very dangerous assumption! Nowhere in East Tennessee is "far" from a natural water source, whether a lake, river, creek, or even a wet weather pond. In addition, East Tennessee is part of a migratory flyover area between the Atlantic
Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Because of this, many migratory aquatic birds, including predatory birds, cross over the East Tennessee area. Also, native predatory aquatic animals will travel far distances from their home territory in search of food.
The most common predatory birds that visit home ponds include the
great blue heron, the little green heron, and hawks/falcons. Covering up to 60% of the surface of the pond with plant foliage will help hide fish from these predators. These birds are easily kept out of ponds by covering the pond with netting. Pond owners that do not wish to use nets can consider a water operated scarecrow instead. The scarecrows also sometimes help with the most common mammal that tampers with ponds, the raccoon. Raccoons are smart, so while netting does help, they might figure out how to go under the pond net. The best way to prevent raccoon problems is not not attract them. Don’t leave trash, koi food, or pet food outside where the raccoons can find these smelly items. This information also holds true for keeping away stray pet animals that might be interested in pond fish. Less often, minks, otters, or muskrats may be attracted to the pond. They are usually found much closer to a major water source, but these aquatic mammals can wipe out a pond quickly. If spotted in or near the pond, TWRA or animal control should be called in to remove these critters from the area.
Less threatening to the fish, but also a possible nuisance, are snakes and snapping turtles. Snakes will eat smaller fish, while snapping turtles can take down even the largest of koi. Snake Scram sprinkled around the pond perimeter will keep snakes at bay, but once again if these animals are actually in the pond, call TWRA or animal control for removal.