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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Oct 20, 2010

Muskrat: New wildlife encounter

Something swimming in the water behind the duck
When I was out bird watching in late September of this year, taking pictures of some Golden Eye ducks, I thought I saw something very small swimming behind one of the ducks across a pond.  But because it could just have been floating debris, I dismissed it.   When I loaded my pictures into the computer however, and zoomed in, there was definitely something there leaving two very small, perfect little waves behind it in a v shaped stream as it propelled itself through the pond.  I just couldn't make out what the creature was, except that it was light brown in color and small, which was somewhat frustrating.  It was also exciting because I knew that I had seen something new.

Naturally I immediately became intensely curious and very determined to go back to that particular pond as soon as possible to find out what this little creature was and so I did, about a week later.   Now most of the time imagination is a good thing, but sometimes it can lead to disappointment as well, which is why I usually try not to speculate too much about what I might have seen.  However, I had already formed a theory about what this creature might be and it just wouldn't leave my mind.  The next thing I knew I had eliminated what it couldn't be, by size and color alone and by the time I went back to the pond I had done a bit of research just to be certain that I could identify what I was looking at when I found it.

Muskrat in the pond
Now I will admit that once I arrived at the pond, I was distracted for some time by the sight of a hawk and ducks that  appeared to be different from what I'm used to seeing.  This is actually a good thing for me most of the time, because when I focus too much on my quarry, it tends to become more elusive for some inexplicable reason.  I had planned to spend at least half the day at the pond because I really didn't expect to find it right away and  wanted to get as many birds on camera as I could before migration was done for the year.

I was taking pictures of Geese and ducks when I saw movement amongst the rushes close to the shoreline, immediately changed my focus to track the movement, and followed it walking along the shore.  I had heard about muskrats somewhere, but I had never actually seen one.   So I was delighted when I did, and elated that my theory about what I had seen the week before proved true.

Muskrat carrying something
The muskrat is apparently wary and shy, and tried to hide from me as long as possible.   But in order to hide more thoroughly it would have to enter its den, which meant, in this case, it had to come out into the open.  The entrance itself was in the side of the pond below water level, and fortunately for me, in a location that wasn't hidden amongst the rushes.

How lucky can a girl get?  Not only did I get to see it disappear into it's den, but twice now I have seen it active in daylight hours.  Muskrats are nocturnal creatures after all.  They can also stay under water for up to fifteen minutes and so this one could have very effectively hidden itself from me in that way.  However it was carrying something in its mouth that it was obviously reluctant to let go of and perhaps that prevented it from diving beneath the surface of the pond.

Muskrat about to enter it's den
Unfortunately I didn't see the Muskrat again after it entered it's den that day, however I did come away with these photos and hopefully I will see the it again come spring.  Muskrats are often considered to be pests and therefore persecuted, even though they are not related in any way to rats.  Although they are rodents, related to voles, they are very beneficial to mankind, nature and habitat.  If you wish to learn more about this animal just follow these links:




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