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Feral Fish

"I would love to recruit more herons to eat the goldfish," says parks planner Amy Kuras.

by Victoria Neff

From the August, 2014 issue

For a new and not very big pond, the one at West Park is amazing. Created as part of a $1.4 million project to clean up an underground arm of Allen Creek, the small spring-fed pool harbored swarms of tadpoles in May, resulting in hundreds of teeny frogs in June.

A July visit found a single frog. The rest either moved on or were eaten--probably by the three families of ducks raising babies there. Last year, more than a dozen babies grew to flight stage in the pond. Two of this year's families had new ducklings in July, while the third's were almost-grown teenagers.

And in the early spring, when the water was very clear, what seemed like at least 1,000 goldfish could be seen in the shallow water. That's why Kuras was glad to hear that a fish-eating heron has also been visiting the pond. While she welcomes the native wildlife, the goldfish are feral pets. "Someone dumped the contents of their goldfish bowl in there," she explains. "They did it shortly after the park [re]opened--I saw the little colored gravel." The population quickly exploded, and some goldfish are now six inches long.

"We're not having quite the ecosystem we hoped for," Kuras admits. "We're asking ourselves, 'What do you do about that?'"

Too bad there's no truth to the rumor in the neighborhood that otters also have discovered the tiny pool--the sleek predators would soon trim the goldfish population. In fact, the aquatic mammals living there are muskrats. Unlike otters, they're primarily vegetarians--which also hasn't helped the environment planned by Kuras and staff at the county water resources office. "I haven't seen [the muskrats] this year," says Kuras, "but they pretty much devoured all of the vegetation" planted in the wetland. And like the goldfish, they're thriving; a baby muskrat was reportedly seen this spring.

As for the goldfish, "we are still kind of scratching our heads," Kuras says. "We need to come up with some plan. I don't know what you can do short of having a bunch of staff get in there with waders and scoop them out."    (end of article)

[Originally published in August, 2014.]


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