What is eating my fish?

adams403(7)July 1, 2009

I don't know what is eating my goldfish! I have a small pond (100+/-gals) with small 'feeder fish' and a couple of leopard frogs. I am finding my fish on the pavers next to the pond with their necks bitten/eaten and their eyes gone. Sometimes the tail is torn off. I have not caught anything at the pond yet. What could it be?!

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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Most likely raccoons. Birds take the fish with them.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 7:12PM
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Yup, sounds to me like raccoons. They're not dainty eaters, and tend to leave abundant evidence behind of their crime.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2009 at 10:37PM
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I do not think that this is a raccoon. If it was you would not find that much of the fish left. You would find a few scales left and nothing else with fish this small. The only thing that I can think of is a cat.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 12:32PM
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well, to me it sounds like birds, lol. Not that this is a laughing mattter, I am sorry your fish are getting eaten.
Sounds to me like they are plucking them out, pecking them apart right there, then are getting disturbed, scared off and flying away. Birds go right for the eyes, and rip fish apart piece by piece like that. Just my opinion.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 12:51PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Herons and kingfishers swallow their fish whole. Ospreys and eagles pick at them but when you hear the sound of hoofbeats think horses before zebras.....

If a heron, kingfisher or raccoon left the fish by the side of the pond a cat or crow would pick at it but cats and crows are not natural predators of fish.

Cats are blamed constantly but raccoons are the number one pond predator and they are everywhere in the USA. Cities, towns, suburbs, countryside. Wherever you are, you have raccoons. IF you build a pond, they will find it eventually.

If plants, rocks, decor or anything else are disturbed then it is a raccoon with no doubt. Birds grab and go. Cats would never have their paws in water long enough to do any damage to plants or anything else even if they were lucky enough to actually swat a fish out of the water. They'd play with it like they do a mouse, they don't recognize it as food regardless of man feeding them fish catfood.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2009 at 6:05PM
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horton(6 b Ontario.)

I have moved these over from the other thread.

* Posted by horton 6 b Ontario. (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 3, 09 at 14:10

You don't say what State or Climate Zone you are in, which may give a clue to what could be eating your fish.
That being said, since the fish's carcass is still there, albeit damaged, it could be a crow that snatched them up or a cat got them.
A Heron or other water bird, even a Raccoon, would eat all of the fish, as would a Beaver, Muskrat etc.
My bet would be on bird or cat damage.

* Posted by buyorsell888 Zone 8 Portland OR (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 3, 09 at 17:46

Raccoons do not always eat the entire fish. I've found plenty missing heads, eyes, fins etc. They are notorious for pulling the heads off chickens too.

Cats are a much less likely predator of fish. The link between cats and fish is strictly man made because other meats were considered too good to waste on catfood in previous times. Fish is not a natural food of cats nor is it even good for them.

* Posted by horton 6 b Ontario. (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 3, 09 at 18:27

BOS,The several times raccoons have raided my ponds, the only evidence left behind from the fish, were a few scales.
No heads or tails, they ate the lot.
They did leave a bullfrog ripped wide open on the grass and the ponds full of mud and broken plants.
Maybe our raccoons have bigger appetites or your raccoons are just picky eaters. LOL
Don't get me wrong, I like cats, but not in my flower beds, near my pond or bird feeders.
I have seen them trying to scoop a fish or two out of the pond. I don't think they succeeded, only because I chased them away, but the did try a few times.

* Posted by ademink z5a-5b Indianapolis (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 3, 09 at 18:33

A raccoon got one of my HUGE bluegill and ate only the head. He was kind enough to leave the rest of it inside the garden shed..............in 90+ degree heat.......I FOUND IT, BELIEVE ME!!!


    Bookmark   July 3, 2009 at 6:51PM
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Thanks guys ~ sorry about the miss-post horton. I am new at this and couldn't find my post (opps, I was looking in the wrong place). I just found another fish in my yard next to my pond ~ same old thing, the neck and eyes are eaten. I have been trying to watch the pond to see if it is a bird. That is what I suspected. I do see herons (blue and green), egrets, ospreys, and the like, but never that close to the house. I also agree that they would likely eat the whole fish. I never see racoons or cats in my yard. These are little fish (2-3 inches long), so I didn't think it was a cat or coon. Also, it is happening at all times of day. Does anyone think it could be a robin? I know that may sound crazy, but I have been seeing a robin in my yard near the pond. Who know? I just hope to catch something :) My video camera is nearby and ready to go. Now, I just need to go buy more "feeder fish" :)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 1:29PM
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horton(6 b Ontario.)

adams403, not a problem, I just wanted to keep all the posts together.
Since you say it is happening during the day, I'll have to change my wager and go for a bird of some kind.
Hope it quits soon for you.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 7:59PM
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I have another question for the experienced ponders out there. I have a garter snake jumping into my pond and grabbing my goldfish and of course my Shubunkin goldfish is his first choice. How do you deter a garter snake? I understand they don't like cats. My cats are indoor cats but I am taking their used litter and putting out by the pond. Do snakes smell? Any help here would appreciated. Thanks montanawanda

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 12:24PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Since snakes don't sweat they don't usually have a strong odor but there is an odd smell many people have mentioned in some of the things I have read about snakes. Most mention a dry, musty smell. It is usually around frequently used dens.
If you are asking if they detect odors, they do, but in a manner much different than mammals.Their major scent organs are in their tongues and they "taste" smells.
Are you certain of your ID? There is only one poisonous water snake in the US but it is always wise to be sure what you are dealing with. How big is it? If you don't want to catch it to change its hunting range, you would have to remove all the places it hides, which is pretty difficult. Sandy

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 1:01PM
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Garter snakes like to stay among tall plants probably to avoid predation by hawks,etc. I have several garter snakes but only see them when crossing between garden beds or occasionally in the pond. I would think that clearing a wide swath of vegetation away from the pond would deter snakes from heading in that direction. I've also chased garter snakes that have appeared in my small pond with a pole so they don't get have a chance to get comfortable there.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 7:03AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Robins do not attack fish.

Most people never see the raccoons in their neighborhoods, that doesn't mean they aren't there.

Garter snakes and many others will poop on you when you pick them up. It has a terrible smell but I think Montanawanda is asking if they have a sense of smell not do they, themselves smell. There are no water moccasins in Montana. The only venomous snakes in Montana are rattlesnakes.

I seriously doubt spreading used cat litter around a pond will deter snakes.

There isn't much that will other than making them uncomfortable or netting the pond.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 11:54AM
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horton(6 b Ontario.)

Did everyone see "Riverspots" latest post?
Verrrrry interrresting!

Here is a link that might be useful: Robin and fish.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 1:22PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

The used cat litter would sure deter me.
I'm not too sure about the net. Everyone seems to raise it a few inches to prevent harm to small birds,toads and frogs and other small critters around the pond.
Snakes mimic their surroundings very well. Hiding at the edge of shade seems to be an almost unbeatable trick. Even knowing it is there, I can overlook it.
There is a reason for the saying, "He's a snake in the grass."
Most reptiles and amphibians will poop if they re picked up. It is a defense mechanism.
While it is true there are no Water Moccasins in Montana, I have seen Rattlesnakes swim and there are pythons in Florida. :)
Most people don't know anything about any of the animals in their neighborhood. It takes a lot of practice to blend into your surroundings whether you are the observed or you are observing. It took a cat to flush out the flying squirrels in our yard (at 3:00 in the morning).
Don't underestimate an angry robin. I saw an angry sparrow recently that certainly set me back. If birds have a language he was certainly cussing out another bird. I swear the other bird appeared embarrassed. Sandy

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 1:24PM
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My two cents worth is it's birds, simply because the eyes are gone. I don't think any of the other rascals would be that discriminating as to what parts of the fish they wanted to eat. Herons take the whole fish and unfortunately I know that from experience. Maybe you could put a bird feeder out to deter them from the pond. I'd say once your attack bird figured out how to get your fish it just kept going back to the well.

One summmer years ago I witnessed two Bluejays swooping down nipping the back of one of our dogs. They would take turns swooshing and diving down, nipping him with their beaks. Poor thing kept turning his head as they nipped him trying to bite them but to no avail. I ran out and chased the lot of them away. The only reason I could think of as to why they attacked is perhaps they thought our dog was getting too close to their young. Bluejays are not very nice anyway....;-)


    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 5:04PM
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Could someone help me solve the mystery of my missing fish? I have had my pond (300 gal) for 8 years. Occasionally in the summer, a fish or two will be missing, probably eaten by a raccoon or heron. This year, I have had a net tightly across the pond, no openings, attached on four corners with steel posts, and held down in between with rocks on ponds edge. Last week, all 8 of my fish disappeared. No bones, no scales, no disruption in the perimeter, no torn net - the water wasn't even cloudy. No signs of any kind - not even any close neighbors with teenagers! Any ideas what could have happened before I get new fish this year? Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 2:46PM
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My guess would be snake

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 6:33PM
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To me the bigger question would be how to stop this from happening. I had some goldfish in the past that I was trying to rehome and I absolutely refused to give them up to anyone that did not cover their ponds. You can use chicken wire and slats of wood to cover your pond from big pests, but garter snakes would be a problem. Although I don't think your issue is garter snakes as they eat there prey whole. My roommate had one so I know.

I know its not the prettiest solution but I couldn't bear the thought of my beloved fish being in danger.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 9:09PM
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All snakes swim. Garter snakes do eat smaller fish. Black snakes eat bigger ones. I once had a garter snake living in the rocks at the edge of the pond (maybe still do) and it would regularly make off with goldfish fry. Snapping turtles eat fish, so do bullfrogs.

Raccooons get into the pond at the shallow end, and make a muddy mess of it, catching and eating anything they can catch.

Herons land at the edge of the pond and wade in, stabbing with their sharp beaks. They can wreak havoc with a pond liner, making triangular holes. (at the nursery where I work, a great blue heron used to wait at the back end of the driveway in the evening, for the employees to leave, and then raid the koi ponds. It made holes regularly.)

American crows and fish crows will eat fish. (Fish crows appeared in the midwest after the hurricane in Louisiana and stayed.) Eagles fish but only on larger ponds. Gulls, egrets, terns, also.

Minks also fish, and there are often minks living in urban areas, I've seen a couple. A friend lost all her fish to one, and she lives in a populated suburban area with a creek nearby.

I would suggest a game camera, to see if you can catch the culprit.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 8:38PM
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Some domestic cats can be great fishers, too. A nursery cat (appropriately named Nuisance) once emptied a small display pond of good-sized goldfish, leaving dead and half-eaten bits all over the place. We know this because we caught her at it. She really didn't want to eat them, she just liked catching them, like cats love to catch mice.

If there are pieces left, that is what I would suspect. The eaten-out eyes could be opportunistic birds after the fact, finding the dead fish on the banks of the pond.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 8:47PM
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I have a 5000 gallon koi and goldfish pond, and have had trouble with Heron eating my fish. I sprayed water at them, and since they are territorial, I also placed to fake geese or ducks in the pond wish float around and the Heron have not come back. I knew I had a problem one morning when my fish would not come out to eat. I have about 125 ranging from 8 inches to new babies. I noticed the next morning the Heron flying off so I watched for them, they would come early in the morning and about two o'clock. One day I went out with the hose and actually caught them with a fish, it dropped the fish when I shot it with the hose. This confirmed my suspicions, the decoy ducks have worked well and I haven't had a problem since. I also have raccoon's but they have never gone after my fish. They just drink a little water every now and then.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 3:22PM
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I too have seen carnage beside my pond. I've seen cats stalking, raccoons wading in the shallow and herons flying off with one of my pets. Plants have gotten their share of abuse too. I'm forever searching for fish saving solutions. I just saw a product called "scare crow" that makes sense to me. It's a motion detected water sprayer. Think I'll search the web for pricing or build one myself.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 1:26AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Check your local Wally World. Our local Wal-mart had them shelved at $49.95, That is $30.00 less than most places.

It works.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:50AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Check your local Wally World. Our local Wal-mart had them shelved at $49.95, That is $30.00 less than most places.

It works.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:51AM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

I agree, Sandy! I use one and it works!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 10:26PM
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Its settled. Motion activated sprayer is on my list. Thanks !

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 2:49AM
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