I always felt that raccoons got an unfair bad rap when it comes to ponds. Prior to any pond installation I always have a consultation with my customers and we talk about the “facts of life” when it comes to owning a pond. In that talk, concern over predators always comes up, and rightfully so. Predators can be a concern for any pond owner, especially when some people may spend a pretty penny on some fish that they do not want to see end up as a sushi lunch for some backyard predator or because most fish usually end up being regarded as family pets.
We then discuss what some of the pond predators are that occur in this particular area, the greatest predominant threat being the Great Blue Heron (which is another blog post all together); but the question of raccoons always comes up to. Although there are exceptions I really feel that the raccoon does not represent much of a threat to a properly built pond installation, but the raccoon has a bad reputation anyhow.
Here’s why I don’t think raccoons are much of a threat. Back in another life and time, I was a Park Ranger and among my duties was to be familiar with the common wildlife that people were likely to encounter in the park systems that I patrolled. Deer, coyote, fox, beaver, rabbit, black bear, chipmunks/squirrel, and raccoon were among some of the land critters I became well versed in and I had opportunity to observe and deal with raccoons often.
First of all, I like raccoons, ever since my “Ranger Rick” subscription as a kid they always held a regard from me, and they are amazing looking creatures with markings that any person would immediately commit to memory. They are very cute, somewhat shy animals, but let’s face it; raccoons are lazy!! If a raccoon has the option to work for a meal, like trying to catch a fish, or to get an easy meal, like knocking over a garbage can, they will always go for the easy money. The fact that they don’t want to work for food is my biggest reason they do not represent much of a threat to the typical fish pond.
But here are some other reasons. Raccoons are not diving or swimming animals, like otter or mink. The classic image of a raccoon working the shoreline of a stream or pond is exactly that…the shoreline, they never really want to get wet other than going for an opportunistic grab for a tasty crayfish or juicy frog that may be dwelling too close to shore. Water is not their habitat at all actually; the raccoon much prefers nesting in a tree. Also, raccoons where I live (New Jersey) have become well adapted to suburbia and have such an abundant food supply they really do not have to work for a live fish meal. The raccoon also will eat just about anything from insects to berries to road kill, going after your pondfish is simply wasted time for a raccoon.
This is not to say that it does not happen; it just doesn’t happen to a well constructed pond that often. If a raccoon does some damage it is usually occurring in the small and shallow “big box store” type of pond installation, these ponds are pretty much like setting up a sushi bar in your yard and the ease of capture is too great a temptation even for the “easy meal, no work” raccoon.
If a raccoon does hit your pond they leave some tell tale signs, the biggest being that the raccoon will eat at site, they do not take the fish to go. The raccoon will also leave behind, usually pondside, the head, tail, and backbone of the fish preferring to only eat the intestines of the fish (again the easy way to eat fish, no fish bones for theses guys)! Other predators take the entire fish with them. Raccoons may even leave behind footprints as their calling card if the gutted fish does not give it away.
So as far as predators, the concern is real, but don’t lose any sleep over raccoon worries; your bigger concern with raccoons is cleaning up the knocked over garbage can with your leftover chinese food boxes strewn around, licked clean, but strewn!


Lou Edwards

I would love to get in touch with you. my family and I have been living in the same house now for over 10 years. when we moved in there was a real problem with raccoons in the neighborhood.

so I establish ground rules with the first family of raccoons that took up residence in our backyard.
these ground rules included the words sanctuary and ok. In the first three years we grew to four families residing on our back property.

it was in the third year that are neighbours begin thanking us because the raccoons used to get into the garbage and break into their back porches that were screened in. since I have established ground rules with these families who are very smart of raccoons they know not to cause any issues or they will not get food and water every night. now 10 years in and I can snap my fingers and say certain commands to break up fights by sang sanctuary loudly and the fights immediately stop.

the new mamas bring their new kits to me every year while I’m cooking out in the evening. new mama will sit between my legs and groom herself knowing her kits will follow. this gives them a chance to sniff me smell me and realize I am trustworthy.

I would love to get in contact as I’m trying to write a paper regarding raccoons living in suburban America. unfortunately raccoons are born as carriers of rabies and therefore get a bad rap.

sadistic show in the county I live in that in the last decade less than 100 of raccoons actually ever had rabies confirmed. also unfortunate is when people call them in to be picked up and trapped because they fear rabies. 100 percent of raccoons that are Trapped are euthanized merely because they are carriers. apologies for the lack of capitalization etc but I am using a so-called smartphone and I have to use the speech mechanism because my fingers are too big for the small keys.

Mike Gannon

Hello Lou and thanks for commenting. Raccoons are amazing creatures! What a cool interaction you have going on with your families of raccoons. Feel free to contact me anytime! I can be reached through my office at 908.277.6000 or email me at mgannon@fullserviceaquatics.com Thanks again for reaching out!


About a year ago we bought a house with a small pond, maybe 200 gallons. We put a large pot of calla lilies in the center and we bought a couple of small koi and some goldfish. The raccoons have not eaten any of the fish but they have wreaked havoc on the lilies. After they managed to completely knock over the pot badly muddying the pond we gave up and removed the lilies, but now we have string algae really bad. Is there a plant we could put in our pond that the raccoons wouldn’t bother?

Mike Gannon

Hi!, Racoons can be an issue with plants and knocking them over or just plain knocking them around. On a small pond that has easy raccoon access there are not many aquatic plants I could recommend that they will not disturb, but maybe try some landscape plants along the edge of the pond. To control string algae try and upgrade your filtration and maybe go with a bigger filter and removing all aquatic plantings. Mike

Linda Barr

So, I came home today after a week’s vacation. While I was gone, I had a pet sitter feed the goldfish in my 100-gallon pond (above ground, on my covered back porch) 2x a day. However, today I found plants ripped out of their pots and can see only 2 of my former 11 fish. I had assumed that raccoons got the fish, as I saw a raccoon on my porch once last winter, when the fish were “wintering” indoors.

Here’s my question: I found no fish remains of any kind in, near, or even far from the pond. Does this mean that the predator(s) were not raccoons? I really don’t think a great blue heron would come across my deck and up a step to my covered porch, but…

Thanks for your insight!

Mike Gannon

Hi Linda. Sorry to hear about the fish loss. If the goldfish were small enough for a raccoon to eat whole it may have been raccoon based on the mess that was made. I think heron would have been “neater” about it. I would not be surprised if a heron came onto your porch if it had enough time with no humans around. -Mike

Bill Powers

I live on a 23 acre pond in Connecticut which is heavily surrounded by woods. While I was kayaking last evening, an hour before sunset, I followed a raccoon walking along the edge of the pond at times walking in the water for 10 minutes.When a 6 to 8 inch splashed near the shore, the raccoon grabbed it and walked off with it. I was surprised. Probably the same guy who dug up snapping turtle eggs near our house a month ago.Other than these two times , have only seen it once a couple of weeks ago getting a drink form the pond. Lived here for 7 years.

deborah b smith

Hey! I’ve had goldfish ponds for many years, and they’ve survived herons (just barely) which are the biggest problems. I don’t worry about raccoons much because my newer pond is deep in the center and has lots of hiding places. In face the fish population has more than doubled in the first year of installation. Agggh. Lately I’m seeing a whitish, slightly greasy sheen on the water’s surface. At same time there is evidence of plant destruction along the edges AND I find my floating water hydrangeas stranded in the yard. Could this be raccoon related? Have never seen this water scum before. It’s autumn, not spawning season, and even then the water doesn’t look like this. We also have occasional bears around. thanks for any insight you can give.


I’m thinking of building a pond (live in a rural area). I know coons will be a problem — they already are — so don’t try the “bad rap” line. They destroy bird feeders on the deck, and crap all over the deck — I swear, it’s like intentional vandalism. And they keep coming back. So about twice a year I trap them with my “live” traps, and shoot them. Boo-hoo, sniff, sniff — they will hardly become extinct, so relax. Once i remove a “family(?), usually good for a few months, but then another group inevitably fills the void, and I “clean house” again. I doubt this will save any koi I put into a pond, so will likely not have fish. But I will always need to remove the coons. Just the way it is.

Laurie G.

I have a different problem with raccoons. My pond is about 10′ x 12′ x 4′ deep. I have a tall external filter with a long hose that carries water from it back into the pond. Either the raccoons knock the filter over (despite its heavy weight) and the hose gets knocked off at the joining, or they bump into and drag the hose out of and away from the pond. Either way, the filter continues to pump water, but onto the ground instead of into the pond. Three times this summer, I’ve awakened to find that my pond is empty – and that all the water has traveled downed a slope and into my neighbour’s backyard! Any suggestions as to what I can do about this?

Mike Gannon

Hi Laurie. Raccoons can cause all sorts of issues as you have found out! There are numerous deterrents that are geared toward raccoon so I’d Google some of those possibilities and choose which will work for you best. As far as the pond, try putting your pump onto something elevated (milk create, cement block) to keep it off the bottom and your pond will not drain all the way should the raccoons cause an issue again. Good luck! -Mike


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