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Nuisance Species: Heron

One of the largest bird species in Ohio, the great blue heron are widely distributed throughout the state. It prefers shallow water areas with trees for nesting nearby. The great blue heron is often observed motionless, as it pursues its prey while standing in a stream, river or wetland.

Unlike numerous other predators that actively stalk on foot or wing, the great blue heron takes the complete opposite approach–it stands still, watching the water for a fish. Then in the blink of an eye, in a sharp and seamless movement, it will snare its prey.

Herons feed during both day and night and eat fish, snakes, frogs, crustaceans, birds, small mammals and insects. Nuisance situations with herons usually involve a heron eating fish from someone's pond.

You can make an area less attractive to herons by:

  • Creating obstacles around the pond. Herons typically land around the perimeter of a pond and walk up to the water. Obstacles, like clear fishing line strung around the pond perimeter or low decorative fencing, make access difficult by creating a barrier they would need to step over.
  • Startling them with water. For smaller ponds (1200 sq. ft. or less) a motion-activated sprayer that detects movement up to 40 feet away and spritzes the heron with water can scare them away.
  • Using a heron decoy. Place a heron decoy in the pond. Herons are territorial, so if they see that another heron occupying the pond, they will likely avoid that pond and seek other feeding grounds. Moving the heron decoy every few days can make the decoy look more effective. Avoid using heron decoys during mating season, which is generally the end of March through mid-April.

Provide hiding places for your fish. Placing large diameter pipe (large enough diameter for the fish to enter) gives the fish a place to hide from predators including herons. Beds of weeds also work well.

Use a variety of methods as these methods work best when integrated and stay vigilant. If all the fish have been taken from the pond it is best to implement the above strategies before restocking the pond with fish.

Great blue herons are protected by federal and state laws. They may only be captured or killed with a special permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Damage Control. Call the Division of Wildlife for phone numbers.