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One of the greatest joys to having a backyard pond is the variety of wildlife it attracts. They come for a variety of reasons: to drink, hunt for food, hide from predators, or even to raise their young. Here are some ways to keep your pond a safe haven for wildlife visitors.
Goldfish and Koi are a welcome addition to most ponds-to both humans and local wildlife. Once you add them to your pond, don't be surprised to see raccoons, herons and neighborhood cats waiting around for an easy meal.
Create deep water: Large, deep ponds (30 to 36+ inches deep) make it harder for predators to hook or spear a fish.
Erect bridges and tunnels: Bright colored fish are easy to see. Use bridges or ledges to cast shady hiding spots that will dull their color, or construct fish tunnels made from rocks, broken flower pots, or hollowed-out logs.
Provide extra plants: Use extra terrestrial and floating plants (especially around smaller ponds) to create a wide border of plantings around the water's edge. This will help keep four-legged predators away from the water's edge, and provide extra cover for fish when swimming in shallow water.
Amphibians like frogs, salamanders, and newts, and reptiles like turtles spend a significant amount of time on land near the water's edge. If you want to attract them to your pond, you'll need to provide them with plenty of safe cover. Allow the grass to grow tall on three sides of your pond and mow one side short for easy viewing. Place small piles of rocks and logs near the water's edge to provide perches for basking in the sun and safe places to hibernate.
Construct escape routes: Small animals and baby animals may become startled or accidentally fall into the water when they come for a drink, so it's important to provide ways for them to climb out of the water. Create ramps by leaning logs or boards up against the sides of your pond at angles that allows for easy climbing. In deeper water, create life preservers out of floating logs or large rocks that break the water's surface.
Build gentle slopes: A pond with steep sides is nearly impossible to climb out of. Use sand or gravel to create a gentle slope on at least one side of your pond. This will provide a safe place for animals to access water to drink, and provide a safe shore for swimmers to escape to.
Netting: Although visually unappealing, stretching netting across your pond will effectively deter birds and cats. Because it may also deter other wildlife you're hoping to attract, once local predators lose interest and move on to easier prey, you may want to remove it until it's needed again.
Spikes & Spiders: Larger birds like gulls and herons can be kept from landing near your pond by attaching stainless steel or plastic bird spikes near the water's edge. These are the same spikes used to keep pest birds from landing on gutters and roofs. Their somewhat unsightly appearance can be camouflaged with tall grass and pond plants.
A more aesthetically pleasing option may be the bird "spider'. With its stainless steel "arms" that bounce and sway in the wind, its almost resembles a spider plant (or some kind of sea creature). Birds find the constant movement of the arms disturbing and they move on. Neither the spikes nor "spiders" will prevent small birds from visiting your pond or cats, unfortunately.
Dummy Birds: Setting realistic-looking birds of prey (owls, hawks, etc.) next to your pond will temporarily scare off small birds-both desirable and undesirable species. Dummy Trumpeter swans can help deter problem geese for a time (real swans will attack geese), but as with the dummy birds of prey, once the "unwanted" figure out the dummy is fake, the jig is up.