Ponds and Water Gardening forum: Raccoons destroyed my pond ... need ideas for future prevention, please!

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Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
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beckygardener
Jun 26, 2013 9:49 PM CST
I have two of those small round 35 gallon pre-formed ponds from Home Depot:
http://www.homedepot.com/p/Beckett-35-Gal-Plastic-Patio-Pond...

I had them stocked with several different waterlilies and a few other water plants. I also had minnows (mosquito fish) in the ponds. And because they breed so much, I probably had two hundred fish in each pond. They don't get that large. Probably about 3-4". They eat the mosquito larvae and other bugs and the plants seemed to thrive from their waste. So everything was doing beautifully!

Well, I've been using these two little ponds for years and the most annoying thing to happen was the tadpole population which actually eats my waterlily leaves. But this year it had not been a problem so far. Unfortunately .... much to my horror ...

Low and behold ... raccoons ...after all these years ... have found the ponds (probably due to the fish) and destroyed everything in both ponds and ate all but about 50 fish that I managed to net and put into a holding container until I can figure out a way to protect them and any new waterlilies being returned to the ponds.

So here is my question ...

Has anyone here ever used a wire cover at night? I was thinking of making two wire covers that are the shape (round) and diameter of the top of each pond. I was thinking of using Galvanized Poultry Netting/chicken wire with 1" squares perhaps. I had thought of using 4 rebar poles in the ground around each pond to use to attached the wire cover to keep the raccoons from lifting up these covers. I know raccoons are smart and resourceful. I could even slide a concrete block down each pole to rest on top of the cover and the lip of the pond to further deterred the raccoons from lifting the wire cover.

Wire netting:
http://www.homedepot.com/p/YARDGARD-1-in-x-4-ft-x-50-ft-20-G...

Or would hardware cloth work?
http://www.homedepot.com/p/YARDGARD-2-ft-x-5-ft-x-1-4-in-23-...

or this hardware cloth:
http://www.homedepot.com/p/YARDGARD-1-2-in-x-2-ft-x-5-ft-Gal...

I am not sure how strong the wire needs to be to keep the raccoons from trying to chew or tear through the mesh and how small the wire holes should be to keep the raccoons from trying to stick their paws through to grab any fish or waterlily leaves.

I don't want to use an electric fence around the pond. I have small grandchildren and a dog that would get zapped. Also lots of small wild birds that drink from those ponds.

The scarecrow sprayer sounds good, but I've talked to others locally and they said sometimes the raccoons start ignoring the sprayer. So it doesn't always solve the problem. So that I why I am thinking about an evening cover for the pond since the raccoons only show up at night. I would leave the pond uncovered during the day.

I have a 6' vinyl privacy fence around my backyard. This probably kept them out of my yard for years. But somehow they've found a way in. Probably climbing from tree to tree. I don't know too many fences that are successful in keeping out critters that climb.

So .... Has anyone ever tried a wire mesh pond cover? If so, did it work?

Any other ideas to keep the pond plants and fish safe from the raccoons?
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Greenhouse Composter Plant Identifier Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis
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ShadyGreenThumb
Jun 26, 2013 11:29 PM CST
All my koi, shubunkin and goldfish are gone, eaten by raccoons this year. I have used wire mesh. But the racoons stand on it and wait patiently until the little fish swim up between the wires and then he nabs them! Once I caught a momma and family of 3 babies practicing their fishing techniques in my ponds! I chased them up in the tree. It was hard not to think they were cute. Then I trapped 3 racoons in our attic! They were cute too but one had my koi in his belly from the night before!! They are a menace here. I have used a motion detector Rain Bird with limited success. If only they would cover all areas of my ponds. But it doesn't. sigh. There is only one goldfish left now. Sad
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you Smile.
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
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psa
Jun 27, 2013 4:30 AM CST

Moderator

In my previous home I found the racoons to be fearless, patient, intelligent, and strong. They tore up or found a way around every barrier I put up. I had the very same 35 gallon free standing pond on my back deck, and they'd scoop the fish out every time. They didn't totally destroy the pond, thankfully, but they did tear up the waterlily leaves. I used feeder goldfish, so there were fewer of them and easier to catch, I think.

The only thing I ever came up with was locking the whole thing up in a metal cage (like a dog kennel). I used to keep a high pressure hose/nozzle by the sliding back door and ease the door open to shoot them with it. It was the only thing that consistently drove them away. We were talking about putting in electric fences with photosensitive switches (coming on when the sun went down and the racoons came out) for the gardens when we moved away.

I do not miss the racoons.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 27, 2013 7:56 AM CST
As Paul says, they will find a way past any barrier, it seems. My pond has been relatively safe from raccoons only because it is deep and straight-sided. They need a place to stand so they can fish effectively.
Your pond looks like it would be steep and deep enough, but if you have your submerged plants like water lilies at a convenient level they can stand on the pots in the pond. They can't fish if they are swimming.

I'd recommend planting tall water plants like Cannas, iris or Elephant ears. Stand the pot on a cinder block in the middle of the pond with the top of the soil just barely submerged - an island with steep sides! Very quickly the pot will be so full of stems there will be no place for the 'coons to perch. The cinder block tunnels provide a little bit of a hiding place for the fish, too.

Shame to have to give up on the water lilies, but unless you get big ones that can be deeper, you'll keep having the problem and spend a lot on plants. And of course big ones would quickly get too big for the little pond!

Combine that with a Scarecrow motion detector sprinkler and maybe they'll be discouraged.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Greenhouse Composter Plant Identifier Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis
Plumerias Ponds Foliage Fan Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tropicals Garden Ideas: Master Level
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ShadyGreenThumb
Jun 27, 2013 1:22 PM CST
Yes, the deeper the pond the better with hiding places for your fish. But the water lily's are the result of the 'coons going after the fish. They are ruthless and don't care what they mess up while going after their food. Sucks!
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you Smile.
Name: Jewell
South Puget Sound (Zone 7a)
Ferns Region: Pacific Northwest Cottage Gardener Hellebores Dragonflies Ponds
Permaculture
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Jewell
Jun 27, 2013 3:50 PM CST
As long as you have an intermittent electric fencer it is safe around small animals, pets and children (although I unplug the fencer when we have company...it is unpleasant to touch). Birds bathe daily in my big pond and even sit on the wires (I make sure plants are not grounding the wire), the dogs each got zapped once and have not had a problem with it.

Raccoons had actually killed all my fish, and had eaten all my plants. I was ready to fill it in before we gave the fencer a try. I did have to run one diagonal wire because last year great blue herons started using the pond for buffet dining. Like you I didn't have any trouble with raccoons for the first (15) years of the pond. The deeper the pond the better chance your fish have of surviving. Like others the wire didn't work for me. Raccoons are pretty clever.

I use solar lights as the posts for the wires and spray painted the wire holders.
Good luck whatever you choose to do Smiling Thumb of 2013-06-27/Jewell/d34796
Name: Carolyn Madden
Pennsylvania
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Carolyn22
Jun 27, 2013 3:57 PM CST
I agree with Elaine. A deep pond with straight sides is the best bet to deter predators. I like the idea of the 'island' in the middle of the pond to act as a shelf for the water plants.

One thing I have never understood, is why we see all these pond designs that show the step like shelves that go to the bottom of the pond. In my mind, that is an open invitation for predators.

Paul's statement that raccoons are going to find their way around any barrier I think is accurate. They are cunning little critters.

Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
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beckygardener
Jun 27, 2013 7:08 PM CST
Thanks for all the input.

These two small ponds that I have are not very deep. I can't eliminate them for a larger, deeper pond. They were actually perfect in size for what I wanted until the darn raccoons found them. I am sure the fish (sushi) are what finally attracted them to the ponds. The main reason I have fish is to eat mosquito larvae since here in Florida we seem to have lots of mosquitoes year round.

I don't know what I am going to do. I did consider weaving some rebar or some other thin metal posts through the wire mesh to keep it from bowing in the middle when a raccoon is on top of the cover. It might also make it heavy enough that it would be hard for them to move it. Another thought was a wooden plywood cover. I am so discouraged that there is a possibility I might have to give up water gardening because of the raccoons. Water gardening is something I have enjoyed with much success for years. And it is the easiest gardening I do because I don't have to worry about watering everything in the heat of summer. I just add water when needed. I love waterlilies! The fish were a really nice addition to the serenity of the ponds.

I may try making covers and see if that works. Only one way to find out. Hopefully it will work.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Greenhouse Composter Plant Identifier Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Amaryllis
Plumerias Ponds Foliage Fan Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tropicals Garden Ideas: Master Level
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ShadyGreenThumb
Jun 27, 2013 8:20 PM CST
Good luck, Becky. Ours is preformed with little steps that help the raccoon in and everything! They are actually called "plant shelves" but the plants just get shoved away by the 'coons. Even if we wanted to dig our own, we can't as there is a gas line just 3-1/3 feet down. We can't go deeper either. Since ours is mostly shade, we can't grow as many pretty things. I would be devastated if my lilies were messed with. The covers are worth a try. Floating plexiglass with holes so fish can get through for food? And maybe they would be smart enough to go back into the pond through the same holes when? the raccoon arrives
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you Smile.
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
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psa
Jun 27, 2013 9:14 PM CST

Moderator

Stock tanks make handy free standing ponds, too. They have straight sides and can be rather deep, but will stand freely on a deck or other surface. In the past we have built wooden surrounds for them or stacked retaining wall bricks around them to make them more attractive. I'll look around for a picture, but I fear that may be from before my cameras were digital.
Name: Jewell
South Puget Sound (Zone 7a)
Ferns Region: Pacific Northwest Cottage Gardener Hellebores Dragonflies Ponds
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Jewell
Jun 28, 2013 9:44 AM CST
Good luck. I know how frustrating it can be. The raccoons had totally killed everything in my big pond. Not a plant or even a dragonfly larva or water beetle left. I was ready to fill mine in and plant more blueberries. Having a water feature is a joy for me too, and now can't imagine not having one. I have several different ones that are small throughout the yard.

This little one only has water lily and dragon fly larva and isn't bothered. It is just a sunken plastic planter. I also have a plastic liner pond that is small enough to cover with a wooden framed fine wire mesh and anchored with about a dozen 12-14" tent/gazebo stakes. Not pretty but it seems to work.

Thumb of 2013-06-28/Jewell/da4468pot pond in front yard isn't bothered
Wood metal cover and side wire cover removed for garden party
Thumb of 2013-06-28/Jewell/41bba2
Thumb of 2013-06-28/Jewell/e838fb pond the wire structure usually covers.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 28, 2013 12:36 PM CST
Becky, you could try just having no fish. Use mosquito dunks in the water to keep the skeeters from breeding. Then you could grow your water lilies happily.

Just my opinion, but a pond that size only needs about 5 fish in it to keep skeeters at bay. Maybe the raccoons went after the fish because there were so many? My pond is 4ft. x 12ft x 2ft deep, and I have 6 or 8 goldfish in it at any given time. Never ever have I seen a single mosquito larva.

When your fish proliferate, scoop them out and 'distribute' them in the ditch or local drainage. Or give them to your neighbors? If they are the little black gambusias, they are native so not a problem for the environment, and they'll help reduce the skeeter population even more if you populate your local waterways with them.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
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beckygardener
Jun 29, 2013 4:43 PM CST
I appreciate all the suggestions and advice. I really miss my ponds. They were my favorite spot in the yard. Oh well. Such is life.

I bought a sheet of plywood that I had cut in half. It was cheaper than any other options. Each piece is big enough to cover each pond. I will place a cinder block on top each night. I have a daily morning and evening routine in my yard, so I will just add the covering of the ponds as another evening routine. I didn't think the wire mesh cover would work. I think the raccoons would figure out a way to still get into the ponds. The plywood covering the ponds at night would probably work because they wouldn't see any fish or the water. Hopefully what they don't see will discourage them enough to stay away.

I have a couple of waterlilies in containers in small water pots, so will transplant one per pond. It will take a month or so to grow large enough to fill in the ponds, but replacing waterlilies at retail price is not in my budget currently. I have to make due with what I already have. Or find a waterlily source for wholesale prices. I am still hopeful that a few of the shredded waterlilies are still alive and will recover, but they are in really bad shape ... so I am not counting on it. Time will tell....

Elaine - I have used Mosquito dunks. They don't work as well as the fish. They are expensive and don't even last a month in my ponds. Which is why I switched to fish over the years. I love having fish in my ponds. That's what makes a pond special, IMHO. So ... I am not ready to give up on having fish. I will just have to cover the ponds every night and hope the Raccoons don't figure out a way to move the plywood. I will have to keep the water level lower than typical since many waterlily blooms stand above the water line. But it's the price I will pay to keep my ponds. Nothing in life is constant except change. Time to adapt once again ! Sticking tongue out Thumbs up
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Jewell
South Puget Sound (Zone 7a)
Ferns Region: Pacific Northwest Cottage Gardener Hellebores Dragonflies Ponds
Permaculture
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Jewell
Jul 1, 2013 2:02 PM CST
Don't worry about your water lilies. From my experience they are pretty indestructible and I have had tossed ones out of water and found them trying to grow in the compost pile. Just have faith and hopefully they didn't hurt the tuber (I have had raccoons eat the tubers).

I am also going to commit heresy and say any lilies that friends, or strangers can give you and you like the flower... take them. Hardy water lilies grow like iris and the tubers have to be divided/thinned occasionally. If you are worried about disease put them in a five gallon bucket full of water for a season. I have passed along my free lilies for literally decades.

Hope your plywood solution works. Raccoons are like little bears. If you ever have a little free time PBS had a great show called Raccoon Nation. I found it really interesting.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (Zone 7b)
hawaiirodney
Aug 30, 2013 1:06 PM CST
I use deer netting - the black plastic soft stuff, weighted down with rocks. I suspect they don't want to mess with getting tangled up in the stuff. It is inexpensive and even managed to catch a couple of snakes (yuck!). On your small ponds you could tuck under the bottom - also can leave loose in case water lilies and other plants get taller. I used water hyacinths to keep netting from hitting the water otherwise food gets caught and fish have trouble eating it.
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
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beckygardener
Sep 2, 2013 6:56 PM CST
Jewell - You were somewhat right. Several of my waterlilies did recover from the destruction of the raccoons. Though some of the plants did not come back, unfortunately.

I covered the two small container ponds with chicken wire and also cover them every at night with plywood. So far the fish and the plants have been not been attacked by any more raccoons.

Luckily, the waterlilies bloom right through the chicken wire covers on both ponds.

Thumb of 2013-09-03/beckygardener/d43cbf

Thumb of 2013-09-03/beckygardener/ec069f


What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
[Last edited by beckygardener - Sep 2, 2013 7:06 PM (+)]
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Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
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beckygardener
Sep 2, 2013 7:08 PM CST
This is the plywood cover I made for each ponds.

Thumb of 2013-09-03/beckygardener/8224ce

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tomato Heads Organic Gardener Greenhouse Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs
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psa
Sep 3, 2013 6:11 AM CST

Moderator

Beautiful flowers, Becky. Glad that they made it.
Name: Becky
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Hummingbirder Butterflies Seed Starter Container Gardener
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Birds Ponds
Image
beckygardener
Sep 3, 2013 6:07 PM CST
Thank you, Paul. I am so glad that some of my plants and fish were saved and survived the raccoons. Sad to see the ponds cover in chicken wire, but one must do what is needed to protect our plants and fishies. nodding
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.
Garden Rooms and Becky's Budget Garden
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
GW & DG: tropicalaria
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages Garden Photography
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Tomato Heads Organic Gardener Greenhouse Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs
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psa
Sep 3, 2013 10:18 PM CST

Moderator

Not the first, nor last accommodation for their sakes, I'm sure. nodding

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