How to Keep Otters off Your Boat

How to Keep Otters off Your Boat

While otters are adorable and full of fun, they can cause a lot of damage when they invade your property. 

If they get into your boat, they will leave their smelly poop all over the deck and even chew up your seats for no apparent reason. 

These predators are known to take every chance they get to eat food available to them, especially fish, crabs, shrimp, and all sorts of marine prey. 

When they come to look for food in your boat, they are likely to take residence since the environment is warm and safe for them. 

And the fact that marinas and docks have conducive conditions for the adept hunters to thrive means they might find their way to boats in one way or another. 

This has put otters in the crossfire of a direct human clash. It’s no longer a surprise to see many of them killed to save significant investments such as boats and other properties. 

I would totally understand a pontoon boat owner wanting to shoot and kill an otter for ruining their boat’s seats or deck. 

But before it gets to having to end an otter’s life, there are a few strategies you can apply to keep these cute yet troublesome critters off your boat. 

There are a few things, though, I’d want you to keep in mind about otters, just so it’s easy to deal with them.

What You Need to Know About Otter Repellents

Otters are great lovers of fish smell. So, if you are working with a fishing boat that will constantly have a fishy smell, it may be hard to keep the critters at bay. 

In fact, having a fish smell will attract more and more otters, especially if they have a habitat near the marina or dock where you keep your boat. 

Luckily, it’s possible to reduce the fish smell by cleaning your fishing boat regularly and not leaving any fish on board when parking the boat. 

You also want to keep in mind that there are fishing and game rules to follow, depending on the state you live in. 

Most states prohibit shooting and killing otters, so you don’t want to be caught on the other side of the law. 

You might also find that there is no one to come and relocate the critters if they take habitat in your local marina. 

Another crucial thing you need to know is that otters like to take shelter in mobile homes, underneath decks, and dens in nature made by other animals. Once they visit your boat, they might make a nest if the conditions are favorable. 

So, it’s up to you to protect your boat and find ways to keep the destructive critters away. 

Having this in mind, let’s get into the best approaches for keeping otters off your boat!

11 Effective Tips on How to Keep Otters off Your Boat

11 Effective Tips on How to Keep Otters off Your Boat

Install Physical Blocks  

Blocking access may sound obvious, but it’s actually the best way to keep otters off your boat. This is because you’d be preventing otters’ entry altogether. 

Most river otters are the size of a home cat, meaning that they can easily make their way into boats through tiny openings. 

So, if you want to leave your boat covered for the winter, be sure to seal up all the openings and gaps around your canvas, no matter how trivial they seem.

Keep in mind that they can manipulate even a tiny hole and get into your boat. And when they get in, they’ll poop everywhere and chew up the fabrics on your seats. 

Along with closing up any openings on your boat, it’s also important to ensure that your boat’s canvas fits snugly. Any loose flaps could also be a gateway for the little critters. 

Lay Out Several Mouse Traps 

Mouse traps come in different sizes, and there are big-sized ones built to trap even cat-sized mice and rats.

Now, you might be tempted to buy the larger ones to keep otters at bay, but my advice is that you use the small ones. 

This is because your aim is to discourage otters from staying or coming into your boat, but not to hurt them severely or kill them. 

A small mouse trap will give an otter a startling sting without having to cause serious injuries or pain. 

You also want to consider traps that are easy to remove once the otter has been stung to avoid the accelerated discomfort once they are back into the water. 

Some of the best traps include the Feeke Mouse Traps and Victor Easy Set Mouse Traps. These are as basic as mouse traps can get. 

Use Black Pepper

Black pepper is a perfect way to keep otters and other critters away as the smell is unpleasant to them and can cause some bodily reactions. That’s why most gardeners use it to guard their yards. 

The downside of using black pepper to keep otters away is that it easily gets blown by the wind. To mitigate this problem, you can sprinkle the black pepper in the boat and then cover it. 

Besides black pepper powder, you can use black pepper gel or a mixture of ammonia and cayenne pepper. 

This method works magic in keeping otters away, and you should be sure to repeat the process every month to ensure that they don’t come back to your boat. 

Set a Humane Live Trap

If several otters have invaded your boat, you might solve the problem using live traps. 

However, traps are more directed to preventing the damage otters can do to your boat when they get on board, but not necessarily keeping them away. 

Once otters get caught in the traps, you can always release them the next day and set the traps again. 

As you might have noticed, there is really no guarantee that otters will not come back after a few days. 

In worst-case scenarios, otters can learn what is actually going on the boat and stay away from the trap. So, you want to be crafty with the traps and set them on areas less recognizable. 

You also want to ensure that you have more than two big traps in case the otters are many to ensure that you trap all of them. 

I found the Havahart Humane Animal Trap to be effective for critters like otters, raccoons, opossums, and groundhogs. 

It comes ready to use and is corrosion-resistant to withstand boating conditions.

When using these traps, I’d suggest that you bring fishy foods as baits to attract otters as they love the smell of fish.

You should also be careful when removing trapped otters as they can scratch you with their claws or even bite you. 

And if the otters trapped look sickly, be cautious as they probably have rabies. 

Scatter Mothballs in the Boat or Marina Area

Mothballs are a great insect repellent that many boat owners use to discourage all sorts of pests common in docks, boathouses, and boats. 

While mothballs are specifically made to get rid of moths, they still do a great job when used as an otter repellent. 

The main chemical in mothballs is usually paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene. They are known as fumigants and change their state when exposed to particular conditions. 

However, these fumigants have been known to pose various health risks, so it’s important to be cautious when using them to repel otters. 

For boats docked at the marina, it’s perfectly fine to scatter mothballs inside the vessel. 

But if you store your boat in your home garage or a confined place, these fumigants can cause fume build-up, which may lead to irritations in the people who go to the area.  

You can put them in a net and hang them off the boat’s side rails. This works effortlessly for the marina dock as it gets rid of otters and discourages them from getting on board. 

It also helps keep the fumigants under control and keeps your family or friends safe when using the boat. 

If you decide to put mothballs in your boat or boathouse, there will be the smell of mothballs inside, but it’s actually way better than the terrible smell of otters’ crap. 

Scatter Mothballs in the Boat or Marina Area

Set Fatal Animal Traps 

If you have tried several methods and the otters seem to keep coming back to your boat or boathouse, it’s probably time to use a fatal animal trap. 

However, you’ll want to check your local animal trapping laws before setting the traps to ensure that you are not violating the wildlife rules in your area. 

I don’t advocate for killing any animal to clarify things, but this could be your only effective way to deal with otters in your area. 

The good thing about fatal animal traps used to kill otters, raccoons, and opossums are said to offer a gentle kill.

Bring a Dog to Send Otters to Their Natural Habitat

Keeping a dog nearby can make your boat or boathouse less attractive for an otter looking for a habitat. 

Most boat owners suggest using a large active dog as it will look more intimidating to the stubborn critters. 

Just like other animals, otters like to stay away from other species as they see them as a potential threat. So, they’ll steer clear of your boat or boathouse if a dog is there. 

If you don’t have a dog, lively house cats can also get the job done. 

Set Up an Electrical Fence

This may seem like too much work, but it’s definitely worth a try. You can install an electric fence around your boat’s entrance area on the dock to keep otters and other intruding animals away. 

It’s pretty easy to set up an electric fence, and everything you need to get started with the project is available online or in nearby stores. 

But the fence doesn’t have to be a big one, though. You want to install something that can give a good shock to discourage the otters from coming back and is not strong enough to kill them.

A small fence like the one used to contain chicken should be enough. Then buy some batteries to keep the wires working. 

Place a Scat Mat Deterrent

Scat mats are designed for training pets from pooping and peeing anywhere in the house, but they can also be used to get rid of otters. 

You can set them to send weak electric signals or loud sounds that frighten the otters and make them stay away from your boat.

These mats are best used in boathouses where no kids or pets will play as they are a potential hazard to them.

Use Fragrant Flora

There are boat owners who swear by keeping various types of fragrant plants in their boats to keep otters and other pests away. 

Plants like lavender, citronella, and basil will give off strong fragrances that otters will probably hate. 

So, how do you keep these fragrant plants in boats? Well, you don’t have to bring potted plants on board, but you can have a few of them lined up around your dock. 

This method will work well when paired with another otter repellent, such as using mousetraps or humane traps to keep the furry otters away. 

Seek Professional Help

If you have tried dealing with otters and the problem persists, you may want to call in professionals for help. 

There are many pest control services they can provide to help you keep otters away. 

Most pest control companies are great when it comes to dealing with critters, but it would be wise to choose a company with a good reputation that offers some form or warranty. 

With a guarantee, you’ll be sure that the company will help with otter removal from your boat successfully. 



Q: Do Otters Cause Damage on Pontoon Boats?

A: Yes, otters can damage your pontoon boat when they infest. They can tear seat covers and contaminate your boat with their stinky poop. 

That’s why you need to use effective methods to prevent them from coming into your boat or boathouse. 

Q: How Do You Keep Otters from a Fish Pond?

A: The best way to keep otters from a fish pond is by installing a solid fence that blocks them from accessing water or getting into the pond. 

You can also set up an alarm system that has a motion sensor and produces a loud siren to scare away the otters. This system will also work great in a boathouse or dock. 

Otters are not likely to damage a fish pond, but they might leave it empty by eating all the fish available since it’s their primary food. So, you should get rid of them right after you notice their visit. 

Q: How Do You Remove Otter Poop?

A: The best way to remove otter poop is to use a high-pressure washer with soapy water. Keep in mind that the dung is a bit sticky and gluey. 

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Having otters on your boat or any other property can lead to damages and turn into a costly problem. 

You can use the preventative measures explained above to keep otters away or get rid of them if they are already on board. 

Most of these methods are cheap and easy to use, and you should be able to apply them when otters come around your boat or get in it. 

Just keep in mind that these critters also have a purpose in the ecosystem, and try to use non-toxic methods to keep them away before trying to kill them. 

If you are unable to keep otters away, don’t hesitate to seek help from professional pest controllers to help you get rid of them before the worst things happen to your property. 

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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