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Keep Masked Bandits from Stealing your Fish!

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racoonsHe may look cute and cuddly scampering through your yard, but that wild forager is wearing a mask for a reason – he’s a bandit out to steal something. Namely, your pond fish! Although raccoons may cause concern for some water gardeners, it’s actually not that difficult to deter these masked bandits from helping themselves to lunch, compliments of your pond.

A Little Background
The name raccoon comes from the Indian word, “arakun” which means “he scratches with his hands.” Raccoon claws are strong enough to open shellfish like oysters and clams. They can live up to 13 years, with females producing one litter of up to six kits per year.

Raccoons have readily adapted to our ever-increasing human population and are now more prominent in urban areas than in the wild, where they nest in hollow logs, tree hollows, and rocky caverns. In urban areas, they den in basements, crawl spaces, attics, drainpipes, and under decks. In towns and cities, raccoon populations can be up to 20 times greater than rural areas!

These critters are as smart as your pet dog or cat, however they possess greater manual dexterity and a highly developed sense of touch. While it appears a raccoon may be washing his food in water, it’s more probable that he’s using the sensitive pads of his forepaws to tactilely explore his food.

Their diet ranges from fruit, nuts, eggs and grubs to small animals such as mice, amphibians, birds, and aquatic animals. In urban settings, the pungent odor of a garbage can is hard to resist, and a pond filled with the delicacy of fish is a sure-fire magnet.

Protecting Your Pond
Keeping raccoons from your pond can prove challenging, since these masked bandits are readily attracted to water. A few tricks of the trade can make your life easier while keeping your fish safe.

Raccoons don’t like to swim and will only venture so far into the water, so it’s critical that your pond is deep enough for the fish to find a safe haven at the bottom.  Another strategy for safe fish-keeping is to include fish caves into the design of your pond. To create the cave, simply tip a plastic bucket on its side at the bottom and camouflage it with rocks and plants so the bucket itself isn’t an eyesore while viewing the pond.

Deep shelves around the parameter of the pond will deter raccoons from dining pondside. The depth of the pond’s edge will keep the hungry critters from venturing in a few inches, and therefore they won’t be able to fetch any fish.

Another viable alternative is to submerge a 2-foot wide piece of mesh horizontally around the edge of the pond. Raccoons can’t reach over the edge, and won’t attempt to step on the unstable meshing since they don’t like to swim.

Some pond owners cover the entire surface of their pond with netting to keep both predatory raccoons and heron from making a feast of their prized fish. A scarecrow that’s used to deter herons will scare the raccoons as well.

Discourage Visits to Your Home
Since you want to keep raccoons away from your pond altogether, ensure your home and yard are as uninviting to them as possible. Store that smelly garbage can in a shed or garage, or use secure-fitting garbage lids and sprinkle the tops of garbage bags with cayenne pepper.

To rid raccoons that may have taken up lodging under your porch or deck, simply douse them with the hose or a bucket of water. You can also toss ammonia-soaked rags in their nesting areas, as the odor repels raccoons.

To keep raccoons off your roof or out of fruit trees, wrap a strip of 2-feet wide sheet metal around the base of the tree trunk.  Place the sheet metal two feet above ground in order to discourage the raccoon from jumping over it and latching onto the tree. Be sure to keep the ground clear of fallen fruit so they’re not tempted to dine in your yard.

A Happy Ending
By following these easy guidelines, you’ll send the local raccoons packing to look for dinner elsewhere. Your fish will remain safe and secure from these predatory bandits, and the only critters enjoying a snack will be your finned friends when you come out to great them with their favorite fish treats.

Featured image courtesy of William Andrus

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