how to keep otters off your boat

How to Keep Otters Off Your Boat, Deck & Dock: Top 10 Tips

They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and they can cause severe damage to your boat. Say hello to otters. While their adorable, furry exteriors might make them look harmless, otters have been known to chew up boat seats, leave loads of stinkin’ poop on the deck, and ravage through food supplies, just to name a few.

Although they might be crazy cute, the damage and destruction that otters bring with them is anything but charming. So if you’re looking for ways on how to keep otters off your boat, these tried and tested tactics might be exactly what you need to keep the fur covered fiends at bay.

10 Ways to Keep Otters Off of Your Boat

There are several reasons why an otter might seek refuge on your boat. The first and most common is the smell of fish and food. Otters are a part of the weasel family, and have an incredibly fast metabolism. This means that they need to eat 20-30% of their body weight every day.

While they are adept hunters, otters will take the opportunity to eat food that’s readily available since they’re also known to forage. But aside from finding food, otters also take residence in boats for the warmth and safety that they provide.

The environment around a marina can provide the perfect conditions for otters to thrive. But their overwhelming presence in these man-made locations have put them in the crossfire of direct human conflict. That’s why it’s really no surprise that many otters have been shot and killed to preserve human investments like boats and other properties.

Of course, we totally understand why you might want to end an otter for destroying your boat. But before you do anything that could end an otter’s life, you might want to consider trying a few more considerate approaches instead.

1 - Install Physical Barriers

This one’s a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. The best way to keep otters off of your boat would be to prevent their entry all together. River otters weigh just between 5 and 14 kilograms, which means that the smaller guys can be just about the size of a house cat.

They’re quaint size means that they can just wiggle their way into small openings and holes that might be in and around your boat. So to keep them off, it would be imperative to seal off any entry points they might find.

Aside from closing up the openings on your boat, it would also be wise to make sure your boat cover fits snugly and securely. See to it that there aren’t any loose flaps that could invite a wiggling otter on board, and tie the canvas tightly against your boat to keep its edges flat and taut.

2 - Lay Out Mouse Traps

mouse traps for otters

This one provides otters with a little bit of noxious stimulation that makes your boat an unpleasant place to stay. There are mouse traps of every size, and some are even designed to kill cat-sized rats. But since we’re trying to be easy on these otters, it might be wise to choose something a little less life threatening for the cuddly critters.

Choose a small trap that won’t injure the otters. See to it that the trap provides just enough of a pinch so as to startle the otters without causing serious pain. It’s also important to consider whether the animal would be able to remove the trap once they leave your boat and head back into the water.

The Victor Easy Set Mouse Traps are as basic as they get. These small traps snap shut and provide a shocking jolt of discomfort without being impossible for otters to remove. Another could choice would be the Feeke Mouse Traps that come in a black  plastic material that’s easy to set and should be easy for otters to take off.

3 - Sprinkle Black Pepper

pepper gel to repel otters from boats

In most garden care forums, contributors swear by black pepper as an effective way to get rid of otters. The stuff is unpleasant to the little critters’ noses, causing a bodily reaction that forces them to find refuge somewhere else. If we’re being honest, black pepper causes a similar reaction in humans, so it’s easy to see why otters probably wouldn’t want to be near the stuff.

The problem with sprinkling black pepper on a boat though is that winds can easily blow off your hard work. Of course, you could always cover up your boat after sprinkling black pepper all over the deck to keep the winds from disabling your otter repellent technique.

Aside from black pepper, you can try pepper gel. This stuff is used as a self-defense tool, but spraying your deck with the gel can also work to make any otters turn back and leave. The gel can get on their little paws, which they can inadvertently rub on their face and mouth. This produces a painful reaction that should wash away after a good swim.

We recommend the Sabre Crossfire Pepper Gel.

4 - Scatter Some Moth Balls

moth balls

One of the most effective methods for keeping otters away would be moth balls. For the record though, mothball companies don’t manufacture mothballs to repel otters. In fact, a quick Google search will show you a bunch of reasons why you shouldn’t use mothballs to keep pests other than moths away.

Mothballs are made from either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. These chemicals are called fumigants, and they change from solid to gas state in certain conditions. These fumes are what repel all sorts of animals, but the same fumes have been known to cause serious health risks to humans.


Nonetheless, if you plan to use mothballs to keep otters off of your boat, it’s best to use the stuff if your docked at the marina. If you keep your boat in a garage or a similar confined space, the fumes from your mothballs can build up and cause irritation and health problems in people who find their way into the area.

One way you can use mothballs aside from scattering them all over the deck would be to toss them in a net and hang them off of the side rails of your boat. This works great for marina docking because it repels otters and prevents them from hopping on board in the first place, aside from keeping the fumes under control.

Check out the Enoz Old Fashioned Moth Balls.

5 - Set a Trap

Of course, you could always set a trap. But just to keep things clear, a trap will not end your otter problems. In fact, it will hardly deter otters and will simply prevent them from causing damage to your boat without actually doing anything to make your boat less enticing. You could always empty the trap tomorrow and set it up again, but there’s no guarantee that it will make otters want to stay away from your boat for good.

Human animal traps for critters like otters, opossums, and raccoons should be big enough to safely contain your furry intruders. But remember that once you catch them and set them free, there’s really no guarantee that they’ll make their way back on board.

Another down side is that they can learn. So the whole trap thing might not work if the otters in the area figure out what it’s about. That said, you might have to get craft with trap placement by concealing it and making it more difficult to recognize. Another issue is when there aren’t enough traps on board for the otters that climb up. Setting two traps for three otters won’t work for obvious reasons.

We like the Havahart Large 1 Door Humane Animal Trap.

6 - Keep a Pet

Keeping a pet nearby can make your boat far less enticing for an opportunistic otter. Most boat owners recommend large, active dogs because they tend to look more intimidating to otters. But some people have found that a feisty house cat might be more than enough to get the job done.

At the end of the day, otters are animals. And just like any other animal, it will do what it can to avoid contact with other species that might be a threat to its safety. It’s important to keep in mind though that an inquisitive dog might get too close and personal with an otter. And because the otter itself can be a curious animal, the close encounter can result to rough play, injury, and even death.

If you’re using your pet to keep otters at bay, make sure you keep them on a leash. It’s also equally important that you make yourself available at all times to keep watch in case your pet comes too close to an otter. Sure, they work as a great deterrent, but that doesn’t mean you should risk their safety for it.

7 - Try an Electrical Fence

Now this one might seem like a stretch, but there’s no harm in trying. You can set up an electrical fence around the entrance of your boat on the dock to keep otters and other animals away. They’re fairly easy to set up, and you should find all the stuff you need online. For the most part, you’re going to want to look for small electrical fences that are used for keeping chickens contained.

Another important addition would be the battery to keep things working. There are loads available online, but boat owners who have tried this method often get the best results with the Zareba EDC15M-Z 15-Mile Battery Operated Low Impedance Electric Fence Charger.

What’s nice about the battery is that it’s not strong enough to kill an otter. But it will definitely send a strong enough shock that can communicate exactly the kind of message you’re trying to get across. And yes, otters will learn that your fence isn’t friendly, so they’re likely to stay away after a while.

8 - Place a Scat Mat

scat mat to keep otters from boats

The Scat Mat was actually designed to help train cats and dogs not to poop or pee where they’re not supposed to. The mats can be set to send a weak electrical shock or to let out a loud, startling alarm if and when an animal steps on it. And while it works great for training house pets, it might also work for keeping otters away.

Keep in mind that a Scat Mat could also be a potential hazard if you’ve got pets and kids nearby your boat or where you store it. The mat makes a good choice if you’re planning to keep your boat in a boat house where it should be a ways away from children and pets that could potentially trigger the mats.

We recommend the vTopTek Scat Mat.

9 - Invest in Fragrant Flora

Okay, so this one might not seem like such an effective tactic. But there are people who will swear by different kinds of fragrant plants that allegedly keep otters away. These include choices like citronella, lavender, and other plants that give off a strong fragrant aroma.

Of course, it might not be too practical to keep potted plants on board. But if you have a way to have them lined up around your dock without causing too much of an obstruction especially if you’re keeping your boat tied down for a few days or weeks, then it might not be too much of an issue.

Keep in mind though that this method might not be quite as effective as others. But if you’re willing to try anything without actually having to install new gadgets or without risking danger to the health of those furry otters, then these fragrant plants might be worth a shot.

10 - Call in the Professionals

If you’re having trouble resolving the problem on your own, then you can always call in a pest control service. There are lots of services that can help you get rid of your otter problem, offering both solutions and recommendations for storage that you can do when they leave.

While most of them are quite reliable, there are some that go the extra mile to give you your money’s worth. For instance, some pest control services will place a warranty on their service. That means that if the otters come back, they’ll re-service your boat or boat house at no extra cost.

Keeping Otters Off of Docks

keeping otters off the docks and boats

If otters have invaded your dock, then you can try some of the solutions listed above. The Scat Mat, electrical fence, and fragrant plants might be a suitable choice for keeping otters off of a dock. It’s also not uncommon for people to rub pepper all over their deck to keep otters off and away.

Again, the best option would still be to make your dock inaccessible to the furry intruders. If you can install a fence and a gate that prevents them from making their way on the dock in the first place, then that would be a worthy choice.

How to Get Rid of Otters From a Boat House?

A bout house can be tough to otter-proof since they can just swim underneath and emerge on the inside of the boat house. Again, the best way to keep them from getting cozy in your boat house would be to make it unpleasant with fragrant plants, pepper, and even electrical fences.

If you also unload fish at your boat house, then it’s important that you keep things clean and odor-free to make sure you’re not luring the otters in. That strong scent of fish is likely what makes them gravitate in the first place, so managing odors can be a great way to make your boat house less enticing.

How to Get Rid of Otters From Ponds

A physical barrier still proves to be the best way to keep otters out of your pond. If possible, install a solid fence or wall that keeps them from accessing the water in the first place. But if you can’t install a fence, you might be able to get away with a decoy.

Some people have found that otters can be deterred by faux predator statues. Installing a statue of a coyote or a large dog can be a good way of telling otters to back off and leave your property alone.

And of course, you can’t go wrong with an alarm system. These systems detect movement and let out a loud siren along with flashing lights that can startle an otter and make it choose to leave. The system can work great for ponds, docks, and boathouses, especially if you don’t expect there to be any movement during certain hours.

Keeping Otters Away

Not all boat owners know how to keep otters off your boat, especially since it doesn’t seem like such an obvious process compared to other pests (see rats and mice, cockroaches, termites, ants and flies). But with the right tools and products, you should be able to keep those fluffy fiends away. Just keep in mind that although they can be annoying, otters serve a purpose in our ecosystem. So going with humane alternatives that don’t put their health or life at risk should be the best way to get the best of both worlds.

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