Is it fishnapping...or MURDER??!!
January 30, 2007 10:58 AM   Subscribe

What happened to 38 koi fish? Were they fishnapped or murdered?

I was housesitting for some friends this weekend. They have two ponds, one in the front yard, one in the back, each with 20 koi. Well, now there are only two koi left. It's possible that the fish weren't all there before they left - they hide and aren't generally all visible at one time.

There is a 6+ foot wall around the entire property. The gate in the front is open sometimes during the day, but not at night. The back yard is always enclosed. There are definitely raccoons around (Los Angeles - SF Valley). But, wouldn't there be some evidence - bloody fish heads or something? There is nothing. There are also probably coyotes around, but I don't see how they could get in the yard. Were they fishnapped? Is there a black market for koi?

(My friends aren't blaming me for the missing koi, we are all just perplexed as to what happened.)
posted by clh to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:04 AM on January 30, 2007

Snakes eat koi.
posted by sulaine at 11:05 AM on January 30, 2007

This is a dumb question, but are you completely sure they're not in the ponds? There's a koi pond at my workplace, and, what with the cold weather and whatnot, we haven't seen any of the fish in months.
posted by box at 11:07 AM on January 30, 2007

Stealing Koi isn't unheard of, in fact a very similar theft occurred just five days ago in Tennessee. A google search on "koi theft" will turn up a number of reports.
posted by RichardP at 11:11 AM on January 30, 2007

Ya, I have a friend who has a koi pond with reeds and whatnot. There's a whole section of the pond that isn't visible and she loses sight of many of her koi in there. It's possible they are just trying to stay warm. Though, you being in the LA area... I dunno.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:12 AM on January 30, 2007

I once had a friend who didn't know where six of her koi had gone. While drinking coffee at her house, she explained the mystery to me, as I watched some sort of giant bird swoop down and pluck another right out of the pond. So I am thinking, maybe it's birds.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:15 AM on January 30, 2007

In the UK, I'd say heron. Got any native large wading birds?
posted by Leon at 11:17 AM on January 30, 2007

it has been freaking freezing in L.A. lately, so maybe they are hiding?

It seems unlikely that wildlife would leave them alone up til now, only to suddenly swoop in the one weekend you're watching the house.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:18 AM on January 30, 2007

Herons are well known for wiping out koi ponds.
posted by chrismear at 11:19 AM on January 30, 2007

Raccoons are quite cunning and love koi. Indeed, here's a page from Los Angeles Animal Services:

"Koi Ponds
If you’ve got Koi, you’ve got raccoons. If you are considering a Koi pond, think carefully about it’s (sic) construction to prevent fish loss from marauding raccoons and herons. If you have an existing pond or are building a new pond consider some of the following remedies to future or present problems:

¨ Construct the pond at least three feet deep. Most animals won’t wade into deeper water.
¨ Gentle slopes into the water make it easy for raccoons to fish; they are not afraid of getting wet.
¨ Provide a submerged ledge in the middle of the pond for fish to hide.
¨ Stretch nylon netting across the surface of the pond.
¨ Employ the use of motion sensor devices, such as lights, noise makers and sprinklers.
¨ Provide plenty of aquatic plants to confuse fishing animals and allow the fish to escape.
¨ Use thick vegetation or boulders on the pond’s edge to further inhibit animals from wading in."
posted by jellicle at 11:22 AM on January 30, 2007

I had koi and frogs in my pond- one evening, two herons stopped by for a buffet..... it was over in seconds....
posted by mistsandrain at 11:28 AM on January 30, 2007

As long as it's not a mountain lion, it's not too big a deal, right? Do you live in a habitat? I don't know how the valley is for the big cats' habitat. I would guess raccoons figured out the fish stash once and for all. They can climb 6' walls for cat food or koi, no doubt!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:32 AM on January 30, 2007

Raccoons generally leave plenty of evidence. They tear my pond all to heck. The herons, on the other hand, do less overall damage, but will often leave fishy bits around, depending on whether they are feeding or just killing. Yes, that's right - herons will kill your fish just for sport. Point being, when a lot of fish disappear quickly with little evidence, bet herons, or thieves.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:33 AM on January 30, 2007

It has been frickin freezin here, yes, but not so much in the past week or so. The fish were visible on the coldest days.

The fish and the ponds are pretty new.

I don't know as much about the back pond, but the front pond is deep and there is a cave for them to hide in. My friend poked around in the cave with a stick and no fish appeared. He doesn't think there is anywhere else for them to hide.

We live relatively close to Balboa Lake and there are some big birds over there. I suppose it's possible they could make their way over, but the yard has a lot of tree cover, so that seems unlikely as well.

Is it probable for raccoons to leave NO evidence? No bones, fishheads or tails? The yard is isolated and quiet enough that they wouldn't be chased off quickly and could enjoy their meal by the pond.
posted by clh at 11:38 AM on January 30, 2007

I don't think mountain lions come down that far into the valley. I work up in the hills where there supposedly are mountain lions, and I've never seen one.

No, I suppose it's not a big deal in the scheme of things, but it's $900 worth of fish. They'd like to know what happened to them.
posted by clh at 11:54 AM on January 30, 2007

Raccoons. My father had a small pond with 4-6 fish and frogs in our backyard. They would come in the night and scoop the fish out, eat their heads, and leave their bodies on dry land to the side of the pond.

See yesterday's post about eating brains for some info on why this type of behavior might happen. My guess would be that it doesn't happen all the time, just when the pests are not nourished enough.
posted by zackola at 12:02 PM on January 30, 2007

There was a pond in front of a rental house we had for awhile. One morning I looked out the front window to see a blue heron finishing his breakfast. I was glad I saw it, 'cause otherwise I'd have wondered what happened to all the fish.
posted by Tasanova at 12:11 PM on January 30, 2007

A friend of mine had a nice pond of Koi and then watched as the Herons came in for feasting.
posted by caddis at 12:14 PM on January 30, 2007

clh: Oh, totally. I guess I should have said if it is a mountain lion, that would be a pretty big deal. Something to let the authorities know.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:15 PM on January 30, 2007

mountain lions actually do come into residential areas sometimes, though it's very unusual. i remember this story from when i lived in menlo park. i guess in the wake of that event, people started paying more attention and have begun noticing it. so maybe it's more common than one would like to think.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 12:19 PM on January 30, 2007

Seconding the first commenter—my parents had a neighborhood cat eat their koi once. The only things left were a few scattered scales around the pond's edge.
posted by limeonaire at 12:26 PM on January 30, 2007

nth-ing herons as the most likely culprit for vanished fish. A former employer of mine had an outside koi pond and a great blue stalked and ate every fish over the course of a weekend, leaving no trace at all other than his image on the security camera tape.
posted by jamaro at 12:36 PM on January 30, 2007

Well I just heard from my friend, and it turns out the fish were hiding. They saw a LOT of them late last night. Can't say for sure if all 40 are alive and well, but definitely more than two.

Thanks for all the ideas!!
posted by clh at 2:14 PM on January 30, 2007

I'm told deep, cold ponds with sheer sides are the trick, both to protecting koi from predators and to growing monster-sized fishes.

Our wakin and a couple of token koi are in a bio-filter-fed half wine cask on the porch and in an old bathtub among the roses. The fish and a pair of baby slider turtles in the bathtub are terribly shy and hide all day long, while the porch fish are friendly as puppies. It's as if the tub fish know there's open sky above them and danger in the air.
posted by Scram at 3:59 PM on January 30, 2007

Although the "hiding out in cold weather" thing makes sense (and is worth crossing your fingers for), I'm going to nth the whole "the pond may have just found its place in the food chain" idea as a serious possibility also.

Over 12 years of having a small pond, I've had more than a few instances where cats, birds or raccoons would "discover" the pond, and wipe out either some or all of the fish...

Gets kind of disheartening after awhile...
posted by nonliteral at 4:37 PM on January 30, 2007

Whoops - should have previewed -- congrats on finding them hiding!
posted by nonliteral at 4:38 PM on January 30, 2007

I set up a nice pond with koi. Zoe, my black lab showed no interest in them. Third day, came home from work, Zoe was soaked from head to mid body, not a koi in the pond, pond was a wreck! We found their little bodies in different spots in the yard, not a mark on them, yet dead as doornails.

She enjoyed playing with lizards too. In hindsight we think she "caught" them and took them in the yard to play with them, when one stopped flopping, she went after another.

We don't do koi anymore, I thought Zoe would scare off the herons that frequent our area, keeping our little fish safe, never thought it would be the dog that did them in..
posted by JujuB at 10:13 PM on January 30, 2007

I had a pond in the UK. Frogs and assorted small ornamental fish (I think I bought 'shubukins' or something like that). A cat friend would hunt the frogs, but not the fish (inaccesible to him). Frogs would make a bizare sound exactly like a bawling baby. This was good, as I would come rescue the frogs from the cat.

Heron control is easy, although less sightly. Just run some wire (monfilament works) a couple times over the pond. This runs hazard on their wings, so they won't come there.
posted by Goofyy at 8:56 AM on January 31, 2007

Look up for the answer.

I was in a friends backyard about 100 feet away from my friends fishpond when all of a sudden we heard a big splash! We looked over to the pond and a faily large hawk was rising out of the pond with a koi in his claws. Away he flew. Her father later put up a net over the pond to deter any other attacks.
posted by brinkzilla at 11:07 AM on February 1, 2007

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