How to Critter-Proof Your Swimming Pool

Toad swimming in an inground swimming pool

When you have a swimming pool, there’s always the risk of attracting unwanted guests. And no, we’re not talking about your annoying neighbor Bob. We’re referring to wild animals wandering into your pool area, whether it’s for a drink, a swim, or just by happenstance.

Finding out that critters have been in your pool is rarely a pleasant experience. Sadly, in many cases the evidence comes in the form of a carcass floating in the water. This happens because animals often have a much easier time getting into a swimming pool than out of it.

Fortunately, there are strategies for dealing with pool-invading animals, whatever the species. Some options are only applicable to new installations or renovations, but others are easy to use with existing pools. One thing they all have in common is that they can save animal lives – not to mention many headaches for the pool owner.

What Sorts of Animals Wind up in Pools?

Animals of all types are attracted to water, and few of them care if it’s chlorinated or surrounded by a concrete pool deck. Semi-aquatic animals may see a swimming pool as just another body of water where they can seek shelter or just hang out, while mammals might treat it as a place to get a drink or cool off. Here are some of the most common scenarios where animals become a problem for pool owners:

  • Frogs and snakes willingly hop/slither into swimming pools, only to drown when they can’t get back onto the pool deck.
  • In places like Florida, it’s not too uncommon for alligators to hunker down in or near swimming pools, creating a harrowing situation for pets and people.
  • Ducks and geese like to land on swimming pools, and aren’t shy about pooping in the water and on the pool deck.
  • Other animals like squirrels, rabbits, mice, and even deer can fall into a pool by accident – especially if they get spooked.

In addition to wild critters, there’s always the possibility of domestic animals (including strays) wandering into your pool area. Fortunately, many of the same tricks for keeping wild animals away can also help keep Fido safe.

Options For Keeping the Critters Out

The best solution to the above issues depends on the exact problem, your pool configuration, and how much you’re willing to spend. Here’s a look at some of the most effective options:


Fences and other enclosures are a great first line of defense, and the pool safety laws in your area probably require you to have one anyway. For birds and smaller animals, a pool cover or netting offers additional protection. Just make sure the cover isn’t one that animals can slip under or fall through – that might only exacerbate the problem.

Built-in Features

If you’re planning a new pool or renovating an old one, your choice of features can head off many wildlife problems. A beach entry offers the ideal exit point for animals, but if that’s not in the budget, critter-friendly steps and ledges can also make a big difference. An automatic pool cover, while expensive, makes it a snap to keep the pool sealed off when not in use (sorry ducks).

Skamper Ramps

A skamper ramp dangles over the edge of the pool deck and into the water, offering an escape route for struggling animals. They’re a great option for people who have dogs that like to swim. However, you can also find skamper ramps designed for smaller animals.

Swimline Froglog - a skamper ramp for frogs to escape a swimming pool
The Swimline Froglog – more info

Scare Tactics

The idea of using decoys to scare animals (particularly birds) away has been around forever. Over the years, the old-fashioned scarecrow has evolved into realistic imitations of natural predators like owls and gators. While decoys invariably get mixed reviews, they can be effective in the right situation – and if nothing else, make excellent conversation pieces.

Bird-X Gator Guard Floating Alligator Head
Bird-X Gator Guard Floating Alligator Head – more info

Some people also recommend installing sprinklers or other systems to scare animals away. This might be worthwhile in some cases, but it could also end up causing a panicked creature to run right into your pool.

Simple Steps

While delving into the options for keeping animals away, don’t overlook the obvious. Keep food picked up around the pool area. Consider relocating any nearby bird feeders that might be attracting rabbits and squirrels. Don’t let trees or plants become overgrown. In general, try to see things from the point of view of the animal, so you can understand what they might find particularly appealing about your pool area (besides the pool itself).

Dealing with frogs, ducks, or other animals is a challenge of pool ownership you may not have anticipated. The ideas above aren’t guaranteed to solve every wildlife problem, but they’re a good place to start. Now if only there were an easy solution for that annoying neighbor…