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Wildlife Threats to your Pond

Below are a few wildlife threats to your pond.

Herons

Considered to be the world’s best fisherman the heron is a formidable predator, it has an unmistakable shape and is perfectly designed to attack fish. The heron is particularly attracted to colourful fish in clear water with no means of escape and will usually stay around until either all the fish have been eaten or it is frightened off. Even if scared off there is still the threat of disease being introduced to the pond as the heron may have been recently feeding from a diseased pond, river or lake. #Herons are a serious threat to any pond, especially as they normally hunt during the early hour’s, and this issue is best dealt with when first designing a pond as the sighting and edgings are permanent and provide an important defence, this is because a heron prefers to land nearby and wade straight into the water.

heron

Therefore the best defence against heron attacks is to obstruct it’s access to your pond, for example using a wall or fence around the pond, fixing stakes that support a barrier of fishing line that the heron will trip against startling itself upon its approach. Placing a fine mesh net totally over the pond will work but is unsightly but necessary if you know you have a heron problem.

Commercially available heron deterrents are available and generally the one’s that scare the heron away using sensors that set off jet’s of water or loud noises are best but consideration to your neighbours should be given if these are likely to be very loud.

As far as plastic herons are concerned, these use the theory that herons are territorial and hence do not fish in pairs. Unfortunately this is not always the case and lets face it if a male heron thinks that your plastic heron is a female then you have just given him the invitation of a lifetime.

Seagulls

If you live in an area which has a large population of seagulls, you may lose the occasional fish (usually small ones) due to them swooping down at your pond. The gulls will not usually land in the pond and are normally only persuaded to try an attack if they think it is safe to do so. One of our friend’s ponds had this problem after removing her two plastic ducks, which implied safety to the gulls, the problem stopped. Also, if cats or dogs are around this problem is more unlikely.

 

seagull

Cats

Domestic cats can be a nuisance but are easily scared of by the pond owner. Their claws can also tear the pond liner near the surface, but they normally get bored within a week or two.

We have two cats and both of them leave our pond well alone and they also deter other cats from the area. The larger the fish the less likely cats are to be too inquisitive.

 

Cats

Mink

Warning mink are vicious do not try to touch them

The American mink, mustela vision, is a recent introduction to Great Britain, having been released from fur farms into the wild by animal rights protestors during the 1950s. This proved to be a bad move on their part as a great many of the mink where then destroyed by farmers, and the ones that survived devastated local wildlife populations. In recent years these feral populations have been very successful, and the mink is now well established across most of England and Wales. Mink are often first mistaken for otters but although very similar in looks they are much smaller 30-45cm in body length (plus a tail of 13-26cm).

Mink will normally make a den within ten metres of water and have a large diet including fish, frogs, invertebrates (such as snails), mammals (rats, mice and even rabbits) and waterfowl.

A mink will dive into a pond freely swimming underwater and easily catching whatever food it wants, often taking extra to save for later.

I have actually seen a Mink taking a 14 inch koi from my own pond in a built up part of Ipswich. They are about so don’t disregard them as a very serious threat to your pond (and other pets).

To protect your pond from mink you must ensure that it cannot get to your pond in the first place, this means sealing off any gaps in or under fences, gates or hedges.

Mink droppings (mink scat) look like curled up earthworms and may smell of fish due to their diet. Their paw prints are around 2.5cm across with five toes, other than these tell tale signs a mink leaves no signs of its visit apart from the rapid disappearance of fish.

Live Traps are available and cost around 30 locally, these do not harm any animal inadvertently caught (such as hedgehogs) and are too small to cause a problem for domestic cats. But be warned that it is illegal to release a mink into the wild and as such it will most likely need to be humanely destroyed if caught. Traps should be baited with fresh fish or shellfish and set to be very sensitive.

 

mink

Brown Rats

The brown rat is a very unpleasant and frequent visitor to ponds. They can swim very well and cause several severe disease risks to humans. The Brown rat will visit a pond to drink and unfortunately in doing so they will often leave excrement and urine in and around the pond which presents a serious health risk to anybody who puts there hands into contact with the pond or its surroundings. Wiles disease can be transmitted from rats to humans who get rat urine on their hands and the following basic precautions should always be taken.

brownrat

  • Never put your hands in a pond if you have cuts or scratches etc on them. We use and recommend the use of arm length rubber gloves.
  • Never rub your eyes after being in contact with a pond.
  • Never eat or drink after being in contact with a pond.
  • Always thoroughly wash your hands, face and any other body parts that have been in contact with a pond.
  • If pond water splashes into your eyes then rinse them thoroughly.
  • If you develop flu like symptoms and/or blurred vision after being in contact with a pond consult your doctor immediately and state that you are concerned about wiles disease.

Water Voles

These are much less unpleasant than brown rats although water voles are often confused with them. The water vole is much rounder bodied with ears that are hard to see, as they are covered with fur, compared to the easily seen pointed ears of the brown rat. The tail is also much shorter on the water vole. Water voles live in burrows in the banks at the side of a pond or stream and can often be seen swimming around in search of food which they will then bring on land and hold in their front paws to eat.

 

watervole

Grass Snakes

Grass snakes can often be found around ponds that are located in woody or long grassed natural areas. They can occasionally be seen basking in the sun near to a pond and can grow up to 1.5 metres in length. Grass snakes are good swimmers and although non poisonous do feed on small amphibians such as frogs. Grass snakes may occasionally eat small fish.

 

grasssnake