Predators in the Ponds
By Patrick Bonin
Unfortunately, humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy a tasty meal of delicious Louisiana crawfish… It turns out plenty of wild animals do, too!
Before they ever make it into your favorite pot, crawfish have to avoid a whole host of predators while they grow up in our ponds, including herons, bullfrogs, snakes, turtles, raccoons and fish. Obviously, we do everything we can to keep our mudbugs safe and sound through harvest!
“With 1,200 acres of crawfish ponds here on the farm, you can bet there are all sorts of critters around who love crawfish just as much as people do,” said Mark Frugé, co-owner of Frugé Aquafarms in Branch, LA. “We don’t have too many issues, but it’s something we definitely have to stay on top of.”
One of the peskiest troublemakers on the farm is the raccoon, who can walk out into a pond and easily turn over 50 crawfish traps in a single night.
“That’s 50 traps that we can’t harvest the next day,” Mark said. “The raccoon might actually eat just a few crawfish, but they cost us money because they prevent us from harvesting our crop.”
Birds like herons and egrets sometimes perch on top of the crawfish traps, and simply stick their heads inside to eat the available crawfish or bait. But a unique solution helps alleviate that problem.
“We use scare away cannons,” Mark said. “They’re powered by propane, and they have a timer you can set to determine how often they fire. The ‘boom’ keeps them moving, and helps to limit the damage they cause.”
And although the ponds are drained each year for about three to four months over the summer to allow for the rice harvest, perch, catfish and carp all manage to find their way into the water. For them, young crawfish make an ideal meal.
“I don’t think the fish are too much of a problem because they just don’t have the opportunity to get really big before the ponds are drained each summer, so they probably don’t have much of an impact,” he said.
But the most impactful troublemaker on the farm isn’t a direct threat to crawfish at all. Believe it or not, beavers and the dams they build cost the farm lots of time and manpower.
“The beavers live in drainage canals adjacent to our crawfish ponds,” Mark said. “But they dam up our ponds’ overflow lines, which creates big problems for us. If we can’t drain our ponds, and they end up flooding over the levees, that’s a mess.”
The beavers’ aggressive dam building makes them especially troublesome.
“You can remove a dam from a pipe one day, and the beaver will replace it that night,” he said. “They’re very persistent, and they’re a real hassle to deal with.”
Typically, offending beavers and raccoons are trapped and relocated off of farm property. Bullfrogs and snapping turtles, two additional fans of crawfish commonly found out on the farm, are taken in accordance with hunting regulations here in south Louisiana.
So as you can tell, we aren’t the only ones with an appetite for fresh mudbugs. But rest assured we’ll keep doing our best to take care of them, so nothing else makes a meal out of ‘em before you do!