By Marc Morrone
Q: The goldfish in my backyard garden pond have repeatedly been taken by large birds – herons or egrets – and possibly raccoons. This morning, I found three more fish partly eaten on my lawn. I read your advice to one reader about putting a fence around a pond to keep dogs out, but this will not work for raccoons or birds. What can I do to protect my fish?
A: Most likely you have herons and raccoons visiting your yard. You will see the birds there during the day, but it’s the raccoons who frequent the pond at night and leave the mess on your lawn (the birds swallow the fish whole).
Garden centers sell bird netting that is put over berry bushes to keep birds away, and when stretched over a framework built around the pond, this will work well for birds as long as it is at least a foot higher than the water level. I have seen small species of herons actually stand on top of the netting and try to spear the fish right through it.
Raccoons are harder, though. The best way to keep them away from the pond is to get an electric garden protector. It is a single strand of wire, hooked up to a battery, that you thread through a series of plastic stakes about a foot high around your pond. When the raccoon touches the wire, it gets a small shock and stays away. This also works very well around vegetable gardens.
Another option for you to try is a device called a Scarecrow. It is a motion-operated sprinkler device that you hook up to your hose and set near the pond. When an animal comes into range of the motion detector, it is scared away by a blast of water.
Keep watering bowls clean
Now that warm weather is here, you must stay on top of your pets’ water supply: When it gets hot, harmful bacteria can quickly colonize water dishes with disastrous results, as any veterinarian can attest.
It’s important that drinking vessels be as clean as your own drinking glasses. To assure this, you must wash out the dishes or bottles with soap and water daily.
If you do not have time to do this every morning, get another set of dishes or water bottles and switch the dirty ones for the clean ones. Then wash the dirty ones when you have more time.
Contact Marc Morrone: petxperts2aol.com